Cutts wants to be very clear that this +1 data is public. While a big aspect of +1 is sharing results with your social graph (which is still sort of confusing given that Google isn’t an actual social network, so it’s Gmail chat contacts, Reader and Buzz friends, etc) , it is also about using that data in aggregate to highlight better results for everyone. For example, on a result that has been +1′d, you’ll see if any of your friends have +1′d it (in a similar way to the current Social Search look with people’s tiny profile icons under the result itself). But you’ll also see that X number of other people that aren’t in your social circle +1′d it as well.
At the end of the day, that’s what this really all comes down to. Whether they’ll admit it or not, Google is at war with Facebook for control of the web. Facebook is coming at it from a social perspective, Google from a data perspective. But the two sides have been inching closer to one another. Facebook isn’t fully doing search — yet. But their social ad play is also a huge threat to Google. Probably even a bigger threat, since that’s the way Google makes the vast majority of their money. And +1 is a big attempt to keep pace with Facebook in that regard.
+1 is actually a much better title for the feature than Facebook’s “like” button. It’s terribly awkward to “Like” a video about a horrible crisis like that in Japan. “+1″ on the other hand, expresses an interest, without attaching an emotion.
I’m glad they’re starting down this path, of aggressively competing with Facebook in their comfortable spaces. I’m sick of that damn like button.