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Lurking in Google (news, site) Labs is a new feature that could simplify how search and social concepts coincide.

Bring a Friend

The web is already full of endless ways to like, digg or otherwise highlight the existence of an interesting page, article or video. So why should Google's new "+1" feature have much impact? Well, because it can be clicked from any Google search results page, it has the potential to influence your social circle and help recommend results.

The new +1 feature is available in Google Labs and, in use, adds a little box at the end of each search result. If one appeals more than most, you can click the icon and your Google friends will be able to see it if they do a similar search. You can also click on ads, so, in theory, better-liked ads will appear more often than those that aren't liked.

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Liking in Google search is now a reality, but will it end up being useful?

More Social or More Pain?

Having seen its recent social efforts fizzle out, Google is launching "+1" nice and quietly in Labs. Once you've agreed to take part in the experiment, the "+1" icons appear on search results. Part of the reason for the low-key approach is that everything that you "+1" is public, so that others can see which search results are really popular -- something that might not make everyone too happy.

The other reason is that Google is changing its user profiles to make them something more akin to Facebook profiles, in the hope that your friends will start checking them out more regularly. Only when Google profiles are a popular location will people really start seeing any value in +1. Until then, your friends have to search for the same stuff as you to see what you liked.

Google's Friendly Future

Of course, if Google has its own social front-end up its sleeve, waiting to go, then things become a lot easier and, just like posting a link on Facebook, your friends can see what you were searching for, what ads you think they might like and so on.

If that sounds a bit like clutching at straws, then remember, this is only a Labs project and if it goes down the pan, then no loss. But, if it does prove successful, it could help influence what ads and search results people click on in a big way.