If you have been reading this blog, you have known that social search is coming. At Supernova 2005, Jeff Weiner, SVP Yahoo! Search outlined a vision for social search. Today, the social search beta was opened.
Yahoo views the web as a play with three acts.
• Act I: Public (e.g. Web Search)
• Act II: Personal (e.g. Desktop Search)
• Act II Social (e.g. search communities)
I got a sneak peak at this. You can save, annotate and tag any webpage -- and then share it with two degrees of separation in your Yahoo 360 network, or, everyone. Social discovery happens around time, people, locations and topics.
The timing of this release may have to do with Google Personalized Search. I slammed Yahoo for not moving from Personalization to Socialization once, and don't need to repeat myself.
Google once took the lead for the annotated web by fostering blogs. But subscription is the new search, and sharing trusted annotation and tagging will build the best index to feed it. Think for a minute about what happens to search when you introduce high quality metadata, scoping and authority that is relevant to you to enhance relevancy. Search has had two great innovations: PageRank (links are votes, thank you Google) and AnchorText (the text of a link, thank you AltaVista). With My Web 2.0 (which I prefer to pronounce "squared" as it's not about me anymore), trusted groups are adding a third dimension to search -- that enhances the search index even for free riders. And those who do participate get top-level benefits, whether they be filers, pilers or neithers.
When you make search social, what matters is trust, expertise and context. They may gain object centered sociality around web-pages, where stories around pages yield connections that yield stories. While this may at first glance look at a real threat to del.icio.us and other social bookmarking sites, they don't have the social incentives quite right, yet. They either need to strengthen them (they eye personal, social and economic [ack!] incentives) or remove many clicks to get to Act III.
Two degrees of separation is a course model for all the facets of our identity and groups we seek to share with. Unlike a site like Flickr or del.icio.us, there is less enclosure with a web-wide search function, which may lead to social awkward social situations. Privacy issues may arise. In contrast to browse, search is a filtering function -- and this is the first large scale implementation to use social networks for their true strength -- as a filter.
But if subscribe is the new search, where are the streams? Openness is forthcoming, and Yahoo! does have a recent track record of participating in it's surrounding community and supporting open standards. Whenever I hear the word integration, I reach for my gun (I do the same for the word content). The risk is the pull of a major enterprise's portfolio when misguided group think starts to think they can own the social web. Maybe I want to leverage the tagging activity I do in del.icio.us, EVDB, Twaggle and my blog/Technorati, or my graph in LinkedIn or Tribe, or annotations in Socialtext or Typepad -- Flickr isn't the only service made of people. Not just import/export but synching across services. Maybe I want to develop upon API goodness (even for non-competitive commercial entities, such as a search group for a Meetup). Maybe I want to see contributions to open source, even though it is a consumer service. Most likely, alternatives will be available that don't depend upon integration and embrace open loosely coupled business architectures. So the big question will be if Yahoo! continues down the path to the Open Web or cubbyholes itself in a Closed Web.
So yes, this is a very big thing. A clear watermark of social infrastructure being developed upon physical infrastructure. I'm not apologetic for calling it a new kind of web, and I think my friends will too. The great promise, of course, is for non-bloggers to annotate the web. Which is perhaps Act III.
Collected through my primative search engine I call an Aggregator: Flickr, Battelle, SiliconBeat, Yahoos, snapshot, Waxy, Matt Haughey, SearchEngineWatch, John Markoff, Battelle hits the bong, Canter is way ahead of him, ...