At the beginning of the year, Google unveiled what seemed to be the biggest upgrade to its search engine yet and provided a glimpse at the general direction of search at Google.The social web was it, search results would be personal and unique, based on your social connections (as defined by your Google+ Circles).
The move was met with a lot of criticism and backlash, but any major change usually generates this response.
Google was determined to move forward, improve the personal search results and the very nature of web search.
But then, nothing happened. The feature is still there, it's likely still being updated and improved, but Google has stayed quiet.
What's more, only a few months later, Google unveiled yet another biggest upgrade to search yet, providing yet another new general direction for search, the Knowledge Graph.
And, unlike social search, or Search Plus Your World, the Knowledge Graph is based on something that Google knows a whole lot more about than people, computers and algorithms.
It's a cliche to say that Google doesn't "get" people, as much as it is to think that Facebook does, but it's also true. Their social products tend to feel artificial, unlike Facebook's.
That may be a result of Google building things based on what it thinks people want while Facebook is building things based on what it sees people want and, perhaps even more so, on what people don't want but will end up using all the time anyway.
What is starting to seem evident though is that "social search" is taking a backseat at Google and perhaps deservedly so. If anything, it should be because the Knowledge Graph has been much better received and clearly provides better results.
The benefits of social-enhanced search are less obvious and slower to reveal themselves and that's when this type of search is done right.