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Google unleashes (another) Facebook knock-off

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Google has unveiled its latest answer to Facebook, and as it turns out, the long-rumored Google +1 project is a shameless knock-off of the Facebook "Like" button.

Mountain View unveiled Google +1 with a blog post on Wednesday, describing it as a way for Google search users to recommend links to others. "We’re ... enabling you to share recommendations with the world right in Google’s search results," the blog post reads. "It’s called +1 – the digital shorthand for 'this is pretty cool.' To recommend something, all you have to do is click +1 on a webpage or ad you find useful."

If you do so, Google will the display a +1 icon on the link when people you're connected to – through Google Chat, Google Contacts, or other services – run searches of their own. And of course, when you search, you may see recommendations from others.

"Say, for example, you’re planning a winter trip to Tahoe, Calif," Google said. "When you do a search, you may now see a +1 from your slalom-skiing aunt next to the result for a lodge in the area. Or if you’re looking for a new pasta recipe, we’ll show you +1’s from your culinary genius college roommate. And even if none of your friends are baristas or caffeine addicts, we may still show you how many people across the web have +1’d your local coffee shop."

To recommend links, you'll need a Google profile, and you'll have to be logged into your Google Account.

The rumor mill has long indicated that Google was working on a Facebook-esque project known as Google +1, and in January, this was confirmed by Bloomberg Businessweek. In October, according to Bloomberg, Google VP of engineering Vic Gundotra "assumed joint command of a secret SWAT team" to add Facebook-like social networking tools to various Google services, and unnamed sources said the project was called Google +1.

Ultimately, the project is designed to better target ads as well as search results to particular users. If you tell Google what you like, it can then use that information to target ads down the road. "Our goal at Google is to get you the most relevant results as quickly as possible. But relevance is about relationships as well as words on webpages," Google said.

Google has been unable to pry all that oh-so-valuable user data from Facebook, so it has restored to building its own Facebook facsimile. Of course, it has tried this sort of thing before, most notably with Google Buzz, which just resulted in a settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission that will see the company undergo regular privacy audits for the next twenty years.

In its blog post, Mountain View said it will eventually roll out the +1 button to other services beyond search. ®

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