Someday, Google will be a major player in social discovery (watch the growth of the Android platform and keep in mind the idea of "serendipitous search" shared by Google Executive Chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt), but just like Wave, Google's "+1 button" is a step in the wrong direction.
There are many reasons the +1 button will not revolutionize the world. First, we already have widely adopted mechanisms for sharing Web content we like, such as Facebook "Likes," Tweets, and social bookmarking sites like Delicious. When we use these sharing tools, it makes our shares visible to many others, launches them into vibrant communities and creates dialog. What will clicking +1 do? Less than that (at least into the foreseeable future). Given there are so many popular ways to share Web content that are already being used by the masses, there is no reason to believe Google's new button will be adopted by large numbers of people.
Secondly, until and unless +1 starts being embedded into sites across the Web, Google's +1 process is awkward and difficult. Consider how it would work: Users would see search results in Google's SERP (search engine results page), click something, navigate to a new page, enjoy the content, and then return to Google to click the +1 button next to those search results. How many of you would take the time to return to Google to click a +1 button?
Because that process is kludgey, the future of Google +1 depends not on people clicking buttons on Google's SERPs but on Google convincing site owners to embed +1 buttons throughout the Web. And why would they? Google +1 will surely begin to appear in the list of options provided by sharing widgets like AddThis (although so far they aren't jumping on the bandwagon), but success for Google's new button absolutely requires it to be front and center, like Twitter and Facebook are on so many Web pages. For that to happen, Web site operators will need to see great benefits to outweigh the loss of screen real estate and cluttering their UI with yet another third-party logo. Unless and until Google can demonstrate mass adoption, web site owners are not likely to implement Google's new button.
Ultimately, my biggest concern is this: Does the +1 button create value for users in Google's fundamental offering--its search product? After all, as Jeremiah Owyang points out to Google Watch, "Google solved the question of how to find info. Facebook solved the question of how we navigate the world. It's a different question."
The idea of socializing search is appealing to Google and others, but it is like "crossing the streams." When I'm searching (as opposed to when I'm spending time with Facebook or Twitter), I want Google to surface information that is the most useful, not things other find "pretty cool" (as is stated in the very first sentence on Google's own +1 button page). And Google already has a way to know what you and I find most useful--our actual Web behaviors.
Put another way, what is the difference between the things you find useful and the things you think are "pretty cool"? And which is more relevant to others when they are searching for specific information? If someone wants or needs information on the Ford Mustang, Ford's own site is useful--it has specs, pictures and product features--but this movie scene of Steve McQueen chasing bad guys in his '68 Ford Mustang G.T.390 Fastback is cool. You are more likely to click the latter link now, but when searching for information on the Ford Mustang, you'll want the former link to be front and center on the SERP.
I vote -1 for Google's +1 button. It seems a distraction from Google's ultimate goal of serendipitous search. Then again, if I was a Google employee and 25% of my 2011 bonus depended upon the company's success in social media, I might be pretty desperate to deploy any and every social feature I could.