Google has boosted its social search efforts, by disclosing plans to make it available to users outside the US in 19 languages in the coming week.
The move capitalises on the global popularity of social media and its increasing impact on search, and follows on the news of increased integration between Facebook and Microsoft's Bing search engine earlier this week. Social Search will add more languages later, Google said in a blog post.
A social search feature available now that will also make its debut abroad later is Google's +1 button and data, which is designed to let Google search users recommend results and share that feedback with others. It is similar to Facebook's "Like" button.
Google, whose search engine is by far the most popular in the world, finds itself at a disadvantage in social search, due to the tight partnership between social networking powerhouse Facebook and Microsoft.
Microsoft, which owns a stake in Facebook and partners with it in various ways, including advertising, has deeper access to Facebook data than Google and other search players. In particular, Microsoft is mining Facebook "Like" button data to power Bing Social, and populate query results with links and notifications from people's Facebook friends.
Google, on the other hand, has access to shallower Facebook data, but like Bing, it also uses public data from Twitter posts and from other sources including its own Google services to power its social search features.
To access Google's Social Search, users have to be logged into their Google account, and they have to link the account to the social media services from Google and other providers that they want Google to factor into their query resolutions.
Social search services like the ones from Google and Microsoft's Bing match posts made by a user's social media contacts that are relevant to the query terms entered for a particular search. That way, if the user is searching for information about a restaurant or a city, he will see in the results links and comments his social media contacts have posted.
The idea is that this type of input from friends and acquaintances can carry important weight when people are looking for advice and help in making a decision.
While the Bing-Facebook connection is clearly an advantage for Microsoft at this point, it's quite possible that Google will at some point strike its own deal with Facebook.
In the meantime, while all search providers agree that social search is an important, emerging area, it hasn't affected the overall popularity of the different engines, as Google remains dominant in the US and abroad.