Does Google+ have a secret identity and does that identity give it teeth in the marketplace?
Before you can understand what Google Plus really is it’s important that you understand the nature of Facebook and the role it plays in the online world.
Facebook And The Social Network Model
Facebook is now what we would consider a “model” social network although other variations exist such as those surrounding social bookmarking aka StumbleUpon/Digg as well to a lesser degree, Youtube.
I think Facebook is the last great social network. I think it’s the last platform upon which we will see a social “walled garden”.The inherent problem with Facebook is that it’s not universal and never will be in it’s present form.
I think Facebook will continue to thrive fine for a respectable time however, due to what it does right and to the members that often arrived kicking and screaming and now don’t want to leave!
It will may potentially flatline in growth but it will hang around several years yet and even if it lost 50% then 300million active users is NOTHING to sneeze at. As business people who’s target audience is small biz owners and “regular folks”, Facebook will remain a viable platform for us to work.
Google+ And The Social Layer Model
That said… Google+ is not TRULY a social network. *gasp!*
They are a “Social Layer” on a platform ecosystem that spans apps, mobile, tools, and even now a whole operating system. They are in quite a few ways the end of the walled garden because most of us use at least one of those tools (who doesn’t use google analytics) G+ is a cross-tool social component that has been a long time coming….
When Tom Anderson, MySpace founder talks about his vision of social he explains how he inherently understood that everything was better with social even if he did not manage to fully bring it into being.
There is a stark difference between a “pocket” social network … and suddenly having a social calendar, social RSS reader, social photo tool, social video tool, social … well… you see the picture… that all are part of the same larger network and work TOGETHER!
You see, everyone’s been so caught up in the things on the RIGHT hand side of the bar, that they’ve missed the integration on the left. While the social to app integration is a long way from being “ready” much less “done”, there is clearly more to this bar than we originally give it credit for!
Google’s OpenSocial component, with their historical involvement in open source and open data, is moving to pull that same layer across multiple authentication types basically allowing other networks to “bridge” into theirs. OpenSocial is a long way from being “ready” or a “big deal” yet… definitely a “yet”. Watch this one, let’s see what Google does.
O’Reilly, a leading tech publication, calls Google+ a “social backbone” which I think is an avid description of what they are aiming for (though I’m not sure until social becomes as standardized as email that we will truly see that manifestation.)
Google is now (again, still) as much a threat to Microsoft and Apple as they are to Facebook and Twitter and they bring together what all four of those walled gardens so far have not been able to. This is both brilliant and game changing.
Will they win this game? For a time yes, but the game is not what people think. The game is not kill Facebook or kill Twitter. The game is become a dominant ecosystem.
The nearest “ecosystem” that people are even halfway excited about is Apple’s ecosystem of devices and operating systems. Yet many agree that Apple is not positioned to handle a strong social network at this time. (Its attempt to integrate one into iTunes has been underwhelming.)
Will Google “win” overall? That’s hard to say. They will however forever change how we think about the web. Even if they screw everything up. What they’ve just done is revolutionary in its own right yet not many people see it.
I don’t think this video is “perfect” but it gives an interesting impression of how “inevitable” your eventual connection to Google+ will be at least for a time.
What we are moving towards is the inevitable universalism of “social” in the same way that email is now universal. All email systems talk to each other and that significantly changed the web but its first drafts were pretty ugly in my opinion. This isn’t just tech growing up but an ongoing evolution of how we think about the web.
Part of what is stalling the potential for this universal ecosystem is the ongoing lack of a truly unified login. (That blog post link talks more about that issue). Will we see a resurgence of the much ignored, and hopefully revamped, Google Friend Connect? Very possibly. Don’t be mistaken in not realizing that this is why Google is willing to let blood be billed by banning “fake names” on profiles.
When some system can reliably ensure that one person is really honestly truly that person, keep out nefarious behavior, and be fully trustworthy with the ability that exists to exploit that trust… then the next hurdle will be over come. Until both APIs and open standards exist – as they do for email – social will remain confined to islands. For now though, what Google is doing is a step in the right direction… giving us much bigger islands!
There remains a lot of work to be done on Google+, a lot of questions to be answered, and a lot of concerns to be addressed, but I believe we need to keep an eye on Google+ as something more than just a social network.
Google has our eyes on them as a social network competitor, with Google+, but they are building something much more subtle and stealthy!
Oh yes… Google+ has legs… and teeth in the market too!
What are your thoughts on the future role of Google in the market place and to what degree do you already use Google products? Are you Google-free? Are you a Google fanboy or fangirl?
I look forward to your thoughts, lets share ideas!
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