Users of Google's search engine will soon have the option to include content created by friends in search results lists.
In a surprise announcement at the Web 2.0 Summit, Google VP of search products and user experience Marissa Mayer revealed an upcoming Google product called Social Search.
"We've been thinking about social networks for a long time," said Mayer, without any hint that the meteoric rise of social networks might be a source of concern at Google.
Social Search, said Mayer, recognizes a fundamental need for real-time information and demonstrates Google's commitment to innovating in search.
Social Search will be launched in a few weeks as a Google Labs experiment. As its name suggest, it integrates information created by people in a searcher's Google network -- defined by one's list of Google Contacts -- into Google search results.
Mayer demonstrated how a search for "New Zealand" produced a list of search results that included relevant content created by friends midway-down the search results page. Among the search results were links to a Gmail message that referenced New Zealand and a FriendFeed entry, each from a different friend.
In order for Social Search to work, users much have a Google Account, a Google Profile, and friends listed as Google Contacts.
The existence of Google's Social Search service appears to validate claims made earlier on Wednesday afternoon at the Web 2.0 Summit by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. "There is a very fundamental shift going on from the information Web to the social Web," she said.
Google clearly wants to be a part of that shift.
Mayer also confirmed an announcement made earlier in the afternoon that Google had reached a deal with Twitter to include tweets in its search index as a way to improve access to real-time information.
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