March 30, 2011 11:57 pm

Google in fresh move against Facebook

Google has mounted a fresh attempt to counter Facebook’s soaring popularity on the web by unveiling its most significant social networking initiative since the fiasco that followed the launch of Buzz more than a year ago.

The search group has shied away from creating its own full social networking site, instead copying features of Facebook in order to add a social element to its core search service.

Google’s latest foray, announced on Wednesday, is based on its own version of the Facebook “Like” buttons that have spread widely online since they were introduced last year. These let users “vote” on web pages they like with a simple click of a mouse, and have their preferences displayed to their social contacts.

Google said that by clicking on its new “+1” buttons, which will appear next to its search results and adverts before eventually spreading to other web pages, users would be able to signal personal preferences that would then appear in other search results seen by their friends. The company said it would use social information from its existing services, such as connections between people on Google Chat, to decide when to show display preferences.

The plan is far better designed than the failed Buzz experiment, said Greg Sterling, a search industry analyst, adding that it could bring a viral element to search advertising for the first time. He added, however, that earlier Google attempts to get users to interact more directly with its search results pages had largely failed.

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