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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 02/18/2011

Google socializes search further, redesigns navigation bar

By Rob Pegoraro

Google searches will reflect more of what your friends know. The Mountain View, Calif., company is expanding its "social search" feature to show additional links created or shared by friends and make them easier to spot.

As its blog post explained yesterday, Google will no longer confine those social results -- for example, Twitter updates or blog posts by friends -- to a section at the bottom of a search page. (You still have to be signed in to the site to use this.) And instead of being limited to connections publicly displayed in your Google Profile, such as your Twitter account, social search -- introduced in October of 2009 -- can now benefit from connections you list privately in a new section of your Google Account. Google will also suggest that you add these accounts if it spots a username matching yours at sites like LinkedIn.


Well, that's what Google says. It hasn't turned this feature on for everyone, and my searches continue to function as before. Spokesman Jake Hubert wrote yesterday that the revised social search "should be mostly rolled out" by this afternoon.

Google's blog post doesn't say this outright, but this move is best read as a defensive move by Google, part of its ongoing struggle to scrub search-optimized but uninformative "content farm" pages from its results. If you assume that friends don't point friends to content farms, then a smart Web search ought to favor results from the people you know.

That does make it a little strange, as Danny Sullivan observes in a post at Search Engine Land, that Google's upgraded social search leaves out the biggest social site of them all: Facebook. Other sites already offer Facebook-informed results -- Microsoft's Bing, for example, added this option in October.

You may have just noticed a different change at Google -- the navigation bar at the top of its home page and those of other Google services. As a post at the Google Operating System blog explains, the redesign replaces the old row of underlined links with a tinted bar, in which each link becomes highlighted in light blue as you pass the cursor over it. It also condenses some account-specific links under a gear icon, like the settings button in Google's Chrome browser.

If you're signed into a Google Account, the redesign now displays your name instead of your e-mail address at the top right. So those of us who regularly post screengrabs of Google searches or services no longer have to blur out that part to avoid publicizing our e-mail.

Curious about what's coming next from Google -- or anybody else in the tech field? My Web chat runs from noon to 1 p.m. Eastern today. Please stop by if you can; in the meantime, I welcome your reviews of Google's social search (if it's arrived in your account) and the revised navigation bar in the comments below.

By Rob Pegoraro  | February 18, 2011; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Google, Search, The Web  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Verizon vs. AT&T: Which iPhone is faster?
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I have a problem with the toolbar redesign. I keep multiple gmail tabs open in my browser - business, personal, spam-ready, etc. - and with the change of having my name displayed instead of my email address, I now have confusion about which tab/email I'm in. I can see it coming that I will send a business email from my personal account, which will annoy me greatly. I wish they would give display options instead of just changing things.

Posted by: tmiller2009 | February 18, 2011 12:45 PM | Report abuse

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