If you’re thinking Google plans to rest on its search-leading laurels, you’ll want check your Google search results over the next week, because the company’s rolling out its next evolutionary step: Search Plus Your World.
As the name suggests, Search Plus Your World combines Google’s search results and its Google+ social network (along with Picasa, the Google photo-sharing site and software) to let you localize searches within your social circle and use Google search to grow that circle. The revised search will now offer not only “personal results” on both web and image searches, drawn from your own Google+ and Picasa posts and contacts, but also auto-complete prompt that let you search for specific contacts without wading through search results featuring strangers with the same name as your friends (particularly helpful for those with friends named “John Smith,” I’m betting).
In addition to those new features (which can be made the focus of your searches or turned off altogether), Google+ will also be promoted in a new right-hand sidebar on the results page that links to Google+ communities discussing your search topic (including the option to join said communities from that page).
If you find this new openness about your Google+ account alarming, don’t worry; not only will search respect your Google+ privacy settings (which can be configured to make things private, viewable to your friends only, or public), but Google has activated SSL encryption on all Search Plus Your World searches and results, giving them the same level of privacy as your Gmail or Google+ account (it also means that you have to be signed in, in order to access Search Plus Your World results; otherwise, you just get “regular” search results).
Search Plus Your World begins rolling out today, with an estimated Friday deadline for full availability. Given the impressive way it folds Google+ into the overall Google experience, it’ll be interesting to see if this results in a (deserved) bump in people signing on to the fast-growing social network; if nothing else, it’ll be worth using just to finally combine social recommendations with search results when it comes to picking a recommended eating spot.
Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.