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Google's new "+1" widget on sites and in search results is a quick way to let people know what sites you find helpful and see what your friends find useful too.

What are those +1 thingamajigs at the bottom of your articles? Some have counts, others have zero. I'm starting to see them on other sites. What's the deal?

Those "thingamajigs" (it's not every day that I get to use that word :-) ) are Google's "plus one" feature.

Think of it as something along the lines of Facebook's "Like" button or a thumbs-up icon. It's a way to indicate that you find a page helpful, useful, or whatever.

Clicking on the +1 does more than just increment a counter.

+1

"+1" is a feature that Google is adding to leverage the social nature of the web.

Plus one widget

You'll see the +1 widget not only on websites that choose to implement it (like Ask Leo!), but in Google's search results as well. (As this is written, it's available only on English searches and search results on Google.com.)

The idea is that when you find a page that is particularly helpful, cool, or whatever, you'll "+1 it", clicking either on the +1 widget on the page or the +1 icon in the search results listing.

What +1 does

Clicking a +1 widget requires that you have a Google account. The first and most visible thing that a +1 does is add the page to your Google profile:

+1's in a Google profile

That page can be public (as mine is) or private, serving as a personal list of pages that you found valuable.

+1 in search results

As I mentioned, you'll start seeing the +1 indicator in search results. While it's early, the idea is that you'll see:

  • A +1 icon that you can click on to "+1" the search result yourself.

  • An indication underneath the search result that shows which of your friends (typically, your Google contacts) have +1'd that page.

The later can actually be helpful to indicate that a given search result might be worth clicking on.

+1 in rumor

There's thought that Google may use the +1 indications on a page as input to its search results. They've certainly not indicated that this is the case or even the plan, but it seems that it could be a useful data point in helping Google figure out which pages are the most relevant to people.

I'm sure that along with that possibility comes the chance that the entire +1 system could be gamed. Given that all that you see right now is +1 information from your contacts, the benefits of gaming the system are limited at best.

However, I'd be shocked if Google didn't pay just a little attention to the data that the +1 system gives it.

To +1 or not to +1

If you have a Google account and you find a page useful, why not +1 it? It'll help your friends find useful information and provide valuable feedback to that site's owner about what is and is not valuable.

Article C4836 - June 3, 2011 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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6 Comments
Mike
June 4, 2011 12:26 AM

What strikes me is that, as with Facebook's "like", there's no -1 or "dislike" button. You can only provide positive feedback, not negative. I miss that -1 quite a few times actually, why don't they implement that as well?

My theory is that it's simply to prevent abuse.
Leo
04-Jun-2011

Rosie Perera
June 4, 2011 12:34 AM

Some readers might have also liked to see a "+1 in lore" section in the response. The +1 "thingamajig" didn't start out life as a Google widget. It's a convention that people have been using in online forums for some time. A person will type +1 in their post if they are adding themselves as yet another person who agrees with or votes for the thing being discussed in the thread. It kind of functions like a "thumbs up" smiley/emoticon, which is another way of giving affirmation to someone's suggestion or comment. Google is just taking it a step further. And they'll probably try to patent the idea as if it was theirs.

Bruce Trainor
June 7, 2011 11:21 AM

Google is not in the philanthropy business. I suspect the real purpose of +1 is to gather info for directed advertisers. Google then becomes more effective for the advertiser and can maintain or increase the rate.

Jim
June 19, 2011 8:23 AM

I think Google is trying to gain a share of the social media market-specifically Facebook's market. If they wanted to improve search results they could put a like/dislike button on the search results, so they could eliminate the link farms that come up. (didn't they try that once?)

I will resist the "+1" deal for the same reason I resist and don't use Chrome, Google payments and Picasa. I use Gmail and Google Reader and they already know enough about me. Facebook knows a lot, as does Amazon where I am a Prime member.

Thomas Johnson
October 17, 2011 2:12 PM

It really still makes no sense to me. When I send text messages or I have incoming calls, they both will have a +1. I still dont understand what it means ???

Mark J
October 18, 2011 12:23 AM

@Thomas
If you mean +1 on a cell phone text message or phone call, the +1 refers to the country code: +1 for the US and Canada, +7 for Russia etc.

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