Google's great at finding pretty much anything on the web -- no matter how obscure -- but has generally lacked social content thanks to its ongoing standoff with Facebook. But, according to the search giant today, the "most radical transformation ever" has just occurred to its search engine. But maybe not in the good way.
Google dubbed this metamorphosis, "Search, Plus Your World". It integrates Google+ content directly into search results in three ways. First, it now provides "Personal Results" which include media -- photos, blog posts, etc -- that have been privately shared with you as well as your own stuff. Any images you've set to share using Picasa will also be displayed. Second, Google Search will now auto-complete queries to people in your circles and will display people who might also be interested in what you're searching for in the search results. Finally, it simplifies the process of finding other Google+ profiles for people or specific interest groups based on your query. So if you search for, say, NASA, it will display Google+ profile pages for NASA and space-related Google+ interest groups in addition to the normal results.
On one hand this is a good thing, especially if you're drinking the Mountain View Kool-Aid (and who isn't, right?). You'll have access to masses more Google+ content in a simplified, easy-to-consume format. Everything runs from a single search box.
On the other hand, as Search Engine Land points out, this could be a user privacy minefield with "privately shared" information being made readily available to both people in your circles and hundreds of millions of Googlers. You're going to need to make sure those pictures (you know, those pictures) are properly tagged and access-restricted before Grandma googles you again.
In addition, wrapping its Social Media service so tightly to its bread-and-butter Search service feels a lot like Microsoft's efforts to bundle IE with Windows. And we all know how well that turned out for Microsoft (it was charged with violating Federal Antitrust laws). It certainly doesn't look good, especially since it's an opt-out system. But hey, at least it's better than playing nice with Facebook right?
Now, if you don't want to share your personal life or get results from other people's personal lives, opt-out is easy. In the upper right corner of any results page, you'll see two buttons -- one with a silhouette and one with a globe. Click the Globe to turn of sharing, click the Silhouette to turn it back on. [Searchblog, CNN, ParisLemon, Google Blog]