Is Google +1 Really Positive?

Yesterday Google announced the +1 button, widely compared to Facebook’s “like” button.  By clicking on a +1 icon by a search result, you can let your friends and the world (or no one, if you set your privacy settings accordingly) know that you recommend it.  Right now, your friends include your Google contacts, but they may expand to encompass Twitter connections as well.

Interesting.  Very, very interesting.  Critics have been quick to point out the flaws: you need a Google Profile (what is that?), Google has limited knowledge of your friends (Facebook ain’t sharin’!), and by the time you know you like a page, you probably won’t want to go back to your search results and +1 it (new verb) (Google hopes to change this by putting +1 buttons on websites).

But consider the following:

In short, +1 becomes the new PageRank. OK, that’s kind of catchy, but more accurately, +1 recommendations can become an important new signal for Google to use as part of its overall ranking algorithm, during a time when it desperately needs new signals.

And this I’m afraid of. Honestly, I don’t want the opinions of the masses (or the scheming of those trying to cheat the system, which will inevitably occur) affecting my Google search results.  I know some elements of Google’s algorithm are already “democratic” in that sense, like the importance of linking.  But people’s behavior seems a more reliable indicator of quality than their randomly chosen +1’s. Am I wrong?

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