In its quest to make the web more social, Google has launched "News Badges" to rewards users for reading and sharing links from Google News.
Interestingly enough, the social feature seems to lend itself perfectly to Google's new social + network, which could help fuel the platform's ultimate success.
Much like the idea behind Foursquare or Get Glue where users are rewarded for digital interaction, Google News Badges allow readers to earn badges based on the volume of articles they read. There are also sharing and recommendation features built directly into Google News Badges, meaning, users can share articles or find other articles related to their badges and interests.
For example, if a user reads business articles, he or she might unlock the Business Article Badge. The more articles this user reads, the higher their ranking within the badge will be. Users start at a Bronze rating and move up to Silver, Gold, Platinum, and eventually Ultimate.
Google News Badges are private (by default), but Google's Natasha Mohanty writes users can choose to share links and badges to "display your expertise, start a conversation, or just plain brag about how well-read you are."
The badges mark an interesting trend in the move towards the social web, where websites are looking for ways to further engage and motivate users to keep coming back. Currently, the majority of sites are hoping to increase traffic through social sharing, but some are looking for prolonged loyalty, which is why they are turning to badges and loyalty rewards in the form of real-life rewards.
Indeed, the social web is built around social networking platforms like Twitter and Facebook where interaction is based on link sharing. It's a website's responsibility to integrate social tools to promote sharing across these social networks. With Google's new badge feature, users will be able to share articles directly from Google News to friends, regardless of how well plugged into the social scene a website is.
It will also make sharing to Google+ seamless, something which could help fuel the social network's success.
According to a ComScore report from April 2011, Google dominates around 65.7 percent of the search engine market within the U.S. If users can go directly from searching and seeking news to sharing it and being rewarded for it, it makes external discovery and sharing through third-party platforms (like Facebook) less relevant.
If everything can be done from within Google, why would anyone ever leave Google?
Google's blog post mentions, "Once we see how badges are used and shared, we look forward to taking this feature to the next level." Could that mean real life rewards for virtual loyalty through Google Offers or Google Shopping? The possibilities are endless.
Although Google News Badges certainly doesn't mean the end of Facebook or other social networks by any means, Google's all-in-one approach to the web from search, to sharing, and rewards will certainly help fuel the company as a global leader. If successful, it could help grow Google+ as a dominate social network.