A seemingly small change that Google quietly launched yesterday has the potential to transform +1 buttons from a simple I-like-this to a find-the-best-content-here experience … and generate more interaction with Google+.

You’ve seen Google +1 buttons all over the Internet. If you’re a Google+ user, you’ve probably clicked a few, and if you’re not, you’ve just ignored them.

+1 buttons serve as a recommendation engine to Google: This is good content. A click on one signifies that you think the website or page you’re surfing is valuable and worthwhile.

That click is not shared with other users by default, although there can be a public record of them on your Google+ profile page (depending on your Google+ preferences). Sharing your +1’s is a secondary step, which then places the recommendation into your Google+ activity stream … in just the same way that a liked website or article appears on your Facebook wall.

The new feature that Google added yesterday transforms the +1 experience from one that primarily impacts Google (as Google learns about valuable content) and your Google+ contacts (as users share what they are +1’ing) to an internet-wide discovery service that helps all web surfers find the best, most valuable content on any given website.

And it works whether they’ve signed up for Google+ or not:

Now, instead of just providing sharing features for other places, the +1 button reveals the most-recommended content on the website you are currently surfing. You find it simply by mousing over the +1 button — no Google+ account required, and you don’t need to be logged in to Google+.

VentureBeat reached out to Ryan Brack, Google’s manager of global communications, for a comment: “+1 recommendations, currently in platform preview, will help users discover content from the sites they love and gives publishers the opportunity to drive deeper engagement with their audience.”

All site owners need to do is add a +1 button to their website, which many have already done.

This accomplishes a number of things.

First, it has the potential to endear Google to website owners, as Google enables deeper discovery of their content. Perhaps more importantly, however, it helps Google+ nonbelievers get a taste of what the search giant’s social network is all about: content discovery.

For that reason, this change has the potential to grow Google+, as Google continues to try to build a social answer to Facebook.

Google says the feature is currently in testing and will go live in a few weeks.