The highly anticipated Google + was released globally yesterday to much fanfare and mixed reviews and is said to be Google’s response to Facebook’s social paradigm. Unfortunately comparisons are already being made to Google Wave and Buzz, the last attempts at “personifying” the web. One failed due to lack of interest and use, the other because of escalating privacy concerns respectively. Google maintains that the + is not a response to Facebook but rather an attempt to keep organizing the worlds information in a way that makes sharing and collaboration more effective.
So what makes the + project different? Did Google finally wake up and smell the “sharing is caring” mantra? “We believe online sharing is broken. And even awkward,” Vic Gundotra says. “We think connecting with other people is a basic human need. We do it all the time in real life, but our online tools are rigid. They force us into buckets — or into being completely public,” he continues. “Real life sharing is nuanced and rich. It has been hard to get that into software,” (Vic Gundotra for TechCrunch) Connect? Yes. Force my contacts into buckets? Perhaps slightly less appealing.
Let’s examine a few commonly accepted notions shall we.
It is important for Google to be social.
It is in fact not important for Google to be social or attempt to mimic Facebooks offerings. The very beauty of search is that you are presented with results and options in an unbiased and neutral way (discussions about The Algorithm can be taken offline.) If people truly wanted recommendations rather than search results, they would ask someone on Facebook. Or the person sitting behind their proverbial cubicle. Google offers users the tools and the means to choose how they spend their time online and more importantly a way to access information be it mobile or desktop. The real question should be what users do with the content they are experiencing and not other individuals. Does having someone in one of your circles mean you are more likely to video chat with them? Am I going to tell a whole circle of people that I LOVED an article or a meal in a certain restaurant?
Companies should stick to their core competencies.
So what this means is that Facebook should not attempt search and in return, Google should forget dreams of going “social.” It has been argued that Google has finally realized the importance of, well, other people not just data-driven search results. However, Google has made a name for itself by trying out the bizarre (driver less car anyone?) to the downright innovative and technologically forward (Chrome, Android) which potentially now includes a whole new way of collaborating and “hanging out” online. Thank the G(r)eek Gods that Google didn’t just stick to search!
Anonymity on the web is a bad thing.
No, inability to share content efficiently and infringements on privacy are bad. Hands up how many of us don’t mind being incognito every once in a while? As in real life, companies don’t always have to know what I am up to. Google already has all of my information. Facebook already owns every piece of my life that I have voluntarily given it. Does my search history really have to reflect that I am looking for a cure to a potentially embarrassing disease? Do my search results for a hotel in Barcelona have to show what someone I emailed once (and ergo stuck to my G-contacts) thought about his experience? The key take-away for companies here is to learn how to monetize and emphasize the users “likes” and “+1’s” and not to find out even more about who they are what makes them tick.
Conclusion? Like the rest of the world I will wait and see what Google + does for my online interactions and am cautiously optimistic that the Big G are onto a winner here. Let’s just hope that people learn how to manage their circles and don’t add their boss into the Friends circle.