Google is introducing a new feature in Google search results today: +1. But what is it? A new social network? A social thingy? A social search engine? Is it even social?
It's a simple way to Like Google search results...
When you're signed into your Google account, every Google search result will now have a +1 icon next to it (right now you have to activate in Google Experimental). If you find the search result useful or just enjoy the linked site, you hit the +1 icon. Google says by +1-ing a result you're giving it a recommendation, a stamp of approval. More +1's on a result means the site is more interesting.
...and is definitely social...
You can see what your friends +1'd which ideally lends more credence to a particular search result. Since Google displays so many sites, these little +1's will help you sift out the crappy ones (if you didn't banish them already). Imagine if your best friend found a link interesting and +1'd it. When you stumble upon that in the future, you're probably going to click it.
...but isn't a social network...
When the Google +1 project first started (as Google Me), it was billed to be Google's Facebook killer. Clearly, it's not. The +1 system works more like Likes in Facebook or Diggs in Digg, meaning to say it's a bare bones simple way to show that you like something. That's good! Google became the king of search because it was simple. +1 is simple.
...that will help Google target ads better...
You can also +1 ad's, which combined with the data of your usual +1s of search results, will let Google learn more about you and better target their ads. It's sort of like data research masked as a feature, like when Google offered free Google 411s to improve their voice recognition software, Google +1 improves their ad delivery system.
...and will eventually grow bigger...
Google isn't done with +1 yet. They've learned from previous mistakes in Google Buzz and Google Wave where they dug a grave for those products by overhyping them. This time, by starting small with a simple +1 icon only available on Google search results, they can quietly go about their business and slowly add to it (like +1-ing directly from a website, from Chrome, from apps etc.).
...but won't change the way you use Google. Yet.
Google +1 is another sign that Google wants to evolve into a more social search engine. All those +1's they keep track of will not only help Google make their searches better, but also make them more relevant to your social circle. As the Internet gets clotted in cobwebs, having friends personally +1 the best sites keeps Google from falling too far behind Facebook and Twitter in social sharing. [Google +1]