Google Co-op was released on Wednesday. The application had been speculated for weeks after the domain SubscribedLinks was purchased by the Search giant.
The announcement was made to a new tool to a group of select reporters on Wednesday and opened on the web shortly thereafter.
Co-op, consists of Topics and Subscribed Links. Topics provides a way for users to label websites, sets of website or whole domains. Subscribed Links allows users to customize the search results, specifically the first listing.
While its cool to see the results. It is lacking in ways. For starters, it takes some XML programming to make it work, which will surely limit its growth, however knowing Google and the web developing community, a simple user interface is sure to come along. But you don't have to be a developer to get these benefits, instead simply subscribe to other users subscribed links to get the benefit of someone elses work. The social networking for the ultimate techy; subscribe to my search algorithm! A second major flaw is that it isn't much for sharing or social networking. In fact, the only way to view other users is through an example user, Tania Bedrax-Weiss, who I presume is real. It seems that everyone is stemming from her. Perhaps she is the equivalent of "Tom" of mySpace.
Co-op does several things for Google:
Wider content. Organizations can more easily extend their search directly into Google.
Broadens algorithm. User community contributes to the intelligence of the search results.
Content Classification. The contributing user community is now working for Google to classify the web.
Encourages User Referral. Subscribed Links is likely to have a viral affect. After developing Subscribed Links, users will refer others to subscribe them.
Strategic Partnerships. There are currently about 20 Google recommended Subscribed Links providers which anyone can subscribe to. While Google likely didn't charge these companies, their arrangement certainly bolsters Google's credibility.
Abuse in the wings
Quality. One of my immediate concerns after subscribing to someone else was quality. What if that person decides to modify their algorithm in a bad way. Then I'll be stuck with their poor result. Fortunately Edit/Remove is explicity shown, but how many users might just accept and move on. Google reputation may be on the line if left unchecked.
FraudA much bigger and more real concern is abuse for monetary gain. Just as Click Fraud entered the PPC game, I predict Subscribed Links will be abused. The fact that they are giving up slot #1 to Subscribed Links is huge value. AdWords Advertisers pay several dollars for that spot, which is now effectively free. Subscription programs and Spyware are likely on the radar once this catches on.
The Term of Service are very loose in my opinion. It's effectively: Don't link to porn or Spyware. However as with most TOS, it leaves the door open for anything else they think about later, which I believe will be the case.
This announcement is probably in response to Yahoo's recent acquisition of del.icio.us, the webpage tagging and sharing application. However Google must get the user interface up to par, or even started to really compete with that service. They acquired the domain SubscribedLinks.com just weeks ago on April, 17, and arranged this announcement, the amount of time they spent developing this couldn't have been more than a few months.
Customizing search results through filtering and various means has been attempted, but largely not been successful. However bringing the user community in to extend and customize your search algorithms is quite bold and unlikely to be matched any time soon even if they wanted to offer it.