Google+ thoughts – I eat crow
Ian Lurie Jul 1 2011
I must eat crow now. Not tasty, breaded and fried, but vaguely icky, with feathers still stuck to it. I dissed Google+ the moment it came out, in part because it failed—it vomited everywhere when I tried to sign up.
But now that I’ve used it for a while, I have to say that it’s got a lot of big advantages. I still have my doubts, but I think this could actually fly.
Why Google+ could win
In short, Google is Netscape to Facebook’s AOL-style model. Facebook is a ‘walled garden’. You log in, do your social stuff, then log out. Also, Facebook makes communicating with specific groups and lists of friends really, really difficult. Google has opted for a more open model: Google+ follows you around in Google-land, and Circles let you use any + feature but confine your message to specific groups of friends:
- Your data can be ‘liberated’ using Google’s export toolset.
- Google+ is a set of tools that are loosely tied together, but you can use them all while searching, using Reader, using Google Docs uploading photos, etc.. That puts Google+ where your work is happening. Which may kill productivity worldwide, but it differentiates Google’s offering in a way that could get them their own, unique audience.
- Easy ‘mini communities’. The Circles feature lets you segment your social media following and communicate with any of them separately using chat, messaging, video, etc.
- Google Chrome. Assuming the FTC doesn’t rip Google limb from limb, the company has a browser platform for their social media platform. That could be convenient.
The rise of independent ISPs and a choice of web browsers was a nightmare for AOL. If Google+ expands and grows to include other Google apps, and then beyond (toolbar, anyone?) it could make Facebook toss and turn, too.
Why Google+ could lose
On the other hand, Google+ could flame out, ala Buzz, Wave and (cough) SideWiki:
- It has to grow, fast. I know Facebook and other service had time to grow. Google+ does not. The public won’t be patient. So Google has to re-open invites and get ready for a flood of users.
- Privacy gaffes. Google+ can’t accidentally allow the entire world to see my e-mails, or let me see people outside relevant circles, or otherwise barf inappropriate data everywhere. Never mind that Facebook is about as private as a transparent commode. People are paranoid about Google and social media. They’ll run in a hurry.
- Complexity. As Rand correctly stated yesterday, Google+ is awfully complicated. Google used to build fantastically simple tools. Lately they’re throwing cupholders on canoes. I don’t get it, and the average user will walk away confused. A hint to Google: If you have to provide a video tutorial, no one’s going to use it.
- It’s getting crowded. Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn. Do we need another network? I dunno.
What I’d like to see
I already like the platform, but to really take off I think Google+ needs:
- An API. Let developers pick and choose the features they integrate into their sites. This would be a logical extension of the model.
- Integration with Calendar. If I’m organizing an event, the ability to send a Google Calendar invite to a Circle would be a godsend.
- Wide open. Let everyone in. You’re gonna have to do it eventually.
- Pare back the feature set. Simplify!
We’ll see what happens. But Google+ is a hell of a lot better than Buzz, that’s for certain.
What do you think?
Note: If you want to follow me on Google+, I’m here: https://plus.google.com/109108273123284204690/
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Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More