Google CEO Larry Page spoke this week at Zeitgeist Americas 2012. You can watch the whole video here. Towards the end of the nearly 40-minute talk, an audience member from the Google Science Fair asked him about social signals in search.
"I was wondering how you thought the role of emerging social media would impact the future search algorithms," she said.
"I think it's really important to know, again, who you're with, what the community is - it's really important to share things," Page responded. "It's really important to know the identity of people so you can share things and comment on things and improve the search ecosystem, you know, as you - as a real person...I think all those things are absolutely crucial."
"That's why we've worked so hard on Google+, on making [it] an important part of search," he continued. "Again, like Maps, we don't see that as like something that's like a separate dimension that's never going to play into search. When you search for things, you want to know the kinds of things your friends have looked at, or recommended, or wrote about, or shared. I think that's just kind of an obvious thing."
"So I think in general, if the Internet's working well, the information that's available is shared with lots of different people and different companies and turned into experiences that work well for everyone," he said. "You know, Google's gotten where it is by searching all the world's information, not just a little bit of it, right? And in general, I think people have been motivated to get that information searchable, because then we deliver users to those people with information."
"So in general, I think that's the right way to run the Internet as a healthy ecosystem," Page concluded. "I think social data is obviously important and useful for that. We'd love to make use of that every way we can."
Of course Google is severely lacking access to a great amount of social data via the world's biggest social network, Facebook (which recently surpassed a billion active users). Google is also doing more poorly in delivering realtime social data via Twitter, since the deal the two companies had previously, fell apart last year.
It will certainly be interesting to see what kind of progress Google is able to make in social search in the future, beyond the signals it is getting from Google+. Twitter actually made a move recently by launching a user profile directory, which some think may actually help increase the visibility of Twitter users in Google results.
Google is also experimenting with email, which some might consider to be the original online social media tool, in search results. Google expanded a field trial for Gmail results in web search results this week, even adding Google Drive and Google Calendar data to the mix.