As we all know, Google is secretly working on hundreds of skunkworks projects as we speak.
One of these undercover projects is called Google Stars. It’s a social bookmarking tool that works like Pinterest, looks like Google Drive, and feels like it could replace the +1 button.
Google is still "dogfooding" it internally and it’s not yet public, but thanks to a sleuthing programmer who first discovered a reference to the new tool back in April, we now know quite a bit about how Google Stars will work. This includes a leaked Chrome extension build that you can install on your own computer, which is how I obtained the screen shots below.
What Exactly Is Google Stars?
Google is rethinking how bookmarking will work on their Chrome browser with Google Stars.
Instead of storing bookmarks in a long list somewhat hidden in your browser’s navigation menu, Google is bringing a Pinterest-like visual experience to users, compete with Google’s signature search functionality and YouTube-style sharing options.
After the Google Stars Chrome extension gets installed, the welcome screen lists six benefits:
- Advanced search
- Beautiful grid interface
- Drag-and-drop UI
- Auto organization by topic
- Enhanced security
- Social sharing
As you enter the main dashboard, you see a grid view of all your previously saved bookmarks with Google Drive-like menu options on the left.
There are three main things that you can do within the dashboard:
- Search your saved bookmarks.
- Engage with a bookmark (go to page, edit bookmark, delete bookmark, or share it with friends).
- Organize bookmarks using a Google Drive-like folder system.
To add a new bookmark to a folder, just visit that page in your Chrome browser, and click the star icon that now appears at the right side of the address bar. Doing so will open up a Pinterest- style menu where you can select which folder to save the page to within Stars.
Back inside the Google Stars dashboard, you can share your bookmarks by making your newly created folder public. Then Google Stars will provide you with a link to share, very similar to sharing a video on YouTube or a file in Google Drive.
When Will Google Stars Go Public?
From my experience with using the extension on my own computer, it seems like the product is fully baked, so it shouldn’t be long before Google releases it publicly. The biggest factor missing right now is integration with your Google account, but I’m sure that will follow shortly. Right now it acts as a standalone Chrome extension.
I think the most logical step for Google is to integrate the Stars functionality with their +1 button. Both +1 and Starring a page basically say, "I like this page." Both can be easily shared. Both can accept comments. If Google integrates Stars into Google+, the +1 button becomes mostly useless for Chrome users.
Will This Affect SEO?
It’s hard to say what sort of impact a new project like this will have on SEO.
The thing about Stars is it can actually be a better quality signal to Google than a +1 vote. That’s because +1’s are public by default, and Stars are private by default (unless added to a public folder). In this way, users can be more honest about what pages they like without worrying that their friends and family may think.
For example, a user who suffers with depression probably doesn’t want to +1 their favorite depression support forum website as friends and Google+ followers are likely to notice, but they’re likely to Star it to come back later because Stars are private by default. This levels the playing field for websites that are less likely to get +1’d because of the nature of the site.
The auto-organization feature within Stars may also play a part in SEO. As you star pages, Google automatically groups those bookmarks into folders by theme. It’s great for the user, who can now easily filter by topic instead of date, and it’s handy for Google, who can add your newly organized theme topics to the massive profile it already has on you. This profile plays the dual role of personalizing your search experience as well as helping Google understand which ads are most relevant to you.
From a webmaster perspective, we may go back to the days of encouraging users to Star (bookmark) our page in their browser for two strong reasons: they more likely to come back via their bookmarks, and we also cover our bases in case Google ever decides to use Stars as one of their hundreds of ranking signals in the future.
What Do You Think of Google Stars?
Does Google Stars look like something you will use when it becomes available to the public? If you don’t feel like waiting, grab the leaked nightly build* and let us know what you think in the comments below.
*Download will be in a .crx format. Just open up a new tab in Chrome and go to chrome://extensions/ and drag the downloaded file to the page.