Social search site Wink released a new feature called People Search this weekend and I think it’s going to be a big move for the company. Wink People Search searches over the user profiles of MySpace, LinkedIn and Bebo. It’s not a mashup of the sites’ own search functions, it’s an original indexing of more than 100 million profiles over these three social networking sites.
Wink says it will be adding new social networks to People Search every two weeks, which ones will be voted on by registered Wink users. As niche social networks proliferate, an aggregated people search is so smart. Someone from the Open ID community should buy a big ad on the results page of Wink People Search.
The anonymous nature of many social networking sites makes it difficult, though not impossible, to use them to discover old friends. Wink says that the primary use for People Search will be finding people with similar interests across social networks. Results can be filtered by network, gender, age and single/taken status. Will young people want to search across networks by interest? I’m not sure. Will marketers and researchers? I imagine they will. How will these sites feel about Wink’s ads run against search results of their users’ profiles? That could be some concern, but short aggregated excerpts with links back are generally considered fair game to run ads against, I believe.
Without knowing how it will be used, People Search strikes me as just plain cool. It’s now integrated with the basic Wink bookmarking and sharing functions; Wink augments Google search by allowing you to search inside other users’ bookmark collections. Our previous coverage of Wink is here. The company raised $6.2 million in funding from Cambrian Ventures, Greylock Partners and angels last year. They tell us they’ve got a good, slow burn rate and that’s great – it allows them time to come up with and implement solid features like People Search. This sort of value proposition is likely to drive a significant number of people to Wink and thus increase the users of it’s basic social search. Social search probably isn’t desirable enough to stand on its own so it’s smart of Wink to start building things like People Search around it.
Update: Some people apparently find it distasteful to be able to search multiple social networks simultaneously. That makes no sense to me. If the need to go to multiple sites to search is the only obstacle between you and danger, you’re not very safe. I think this will have zero impact on nefarious activities and will make the biggest impact on research and perhaps evaluation of different social networks to see which are strongest in your areas of interest.