Google has launched a new tool to enable users to share content they like with friends and family. Initially only available to a tiny percentage of English language sites and only in the US, the plan is to roll it out globally before the end of the year.
The +1 button will rival the Facebook ‘Like’ button and the ‘Tweet’ button, which already appear on hundreds of thousands of content-driven websites all over the world.
The button will appear next to search results and ads within Google, and also next to content on blogs and news sites. Once clicked, the recommendation will be visible to contacts within Gmail address book, Google Reader and Buzz.
It’s an exciting step because it’s an alternative to sharing on Facebook or Twitter – and Google claim it’s more relevant because it means sharing only within the context of relevant search results, rather than spamming every contact with every link. In this way, it’s shortcutting Twitter and Facebook – you get the results there and then, and only when you need them.
+1 sharing is also there to stay, so while a link I shared last year on Twitter or Facebook is long gone, it will still appear to my contacts when they are looking for specific content. That makes it useful for hunting for things that you vaguely remember tweeting about, and could make +1 a viable alternative to bookmarking.
Ultimately, +1 will benefit the search algorithm, devolving power to Google’s users. The very best content will become flagged in multiple, discrete occurrences with +1’s, lifting that content in search results and providing Google with extremely useful grassroots feedback.