Let’s step into the realm of the hypothetical offline world for a moment and pretend that you are in the market for a used car. Now we know how tricky that can be. A million things can go wrong – the salesman can be dishonest and not tell you about the things you really need to know. Maybe there is rust where there shouldn’t be rust? Maybe the car was involved in a serious accident and is seriously unroadworthy? Maybe the car was stolen? Maybe the brake cable has been cut? OK maybe not that one, but you get the idea. The point is when you go to buy something, you are taking a big risk that what you are buying may come back to hit you in the face when you least expect it.
Now what if a very trusted friend or relative was to come knocking on your door and tell you all about this super-ultra-reliable-trustworthy salesman at the opposite end of town? The one where the cars are sparkling clean, the paperwork is up-to-scratch, rust is nowhere to be found, the salesman’s brother is a cop who checks the plates, and the brakes are so damn good that the car can stop in seconds? The fact that a trusted friend or relative has told you all of this would make you feel more inclined to go to that salesman, right?
A recommendation or endorsement has always carried with it a certain amount of power. Suddenly that person, place, or thing is no longer an unknown quantity. You can feel more relaxed knowing that your trusted friend has been there, and is satisfied with the service. Now you can too.
Well, now Google wants to translate that to the online real world, with a concept called “Shared Endorsements”. This is where, when you are searching for a product online, if any of your Google+ contacts have reviewed that product in the past, then it would show up inside the search result, like so.
So as you can see, this doesn’t just apply to actual physical tangible products. It can also apply to things like cafes, hotels, and restaurants. Say it’s Saturday night and you’re looking for a new restaurant to go to. So you go on the Google and see that a Google+ friend of yours, someone you chat with often, has recommended a new Mexican place in town, not far from your place. Wouldn’t that make you think that maybe you should try the place too? You can just click on the person’s review to read it, and once you’ve been there, you can add your review too, and pay it forward to the next person.
This is consumer power at its finest, and an illustration of what is good about the web. If you have had a bad experience with an online seller, or an offline establishment, no longer do you need to fume in private. You can now leave a review online and let your friends, and the wider world know about it.
Google has however surprisingly given you an escape hatch if having your recommendations splashed all over the search pages is somewhat undesirable to you. If you want to opt out, go to this page, scroll down to the bottom, and untick the box, then click “save”.
Writing this, I am reminded of an article I did way back in 2008, where Stumbleupon was doing a very basic version of the same thing. If you were logged in to your Stumbleupon account, if you were using Firefox, and the correct setting in the Firefox Stumbleupon toolbar was activated, then you would see recommendations from your Stumbleupon contacts inside your Google results.
This is the screenshot from 2008 (like you hadn’t guessed that already from the terrible font), because although the setting for Stumbleupon’s recommendations is still there in the toolbar, I couldn’t get it to work with the current version of Firefox (or maybe the current version of Google?)
I’ve railed against Google Plus in the past, so I would be the first to admit that I am not a huge fan. But to be honest, I like this part and anyway this is the way the Internet is going now, with Facebook Graph Search being able to tell you with one query what places, restaurants and products your Facebook friends have liked in the past. Recommendations and endorsements are going to be all the rage now.
Dishonest merchants and those in the hospitality industry, watch out.