Friday, November 11, 2011

Google Platform

I have not signed up for Google+ yet. But the more I think about it, I think Google has really nailed this one super right.


Google+ tightly integrated with Google Chrome, Chromebooks, and +1 API is slowly going to become a platform, an operating system a core of everything that we do online. It is going to be our unique identity across all Google properties and subsequently the internet. And when I think about it,  whether I like it or not Google is still my main point of entry into the big bad world of the internet. And how you ask?

Google Chrome

I start browsing online through my browser – Chrome (I still use Firefox, but considering that 82% of Mozilla’s revenue comes from Google, the browsers are technically “influenced” by Google). The first website I go to is – Gmail (to check my emails) and then chat with anyone who is online on Gtalk. There after I open my Google Reader (to catch up on my daily dose of feed-updates). If I have to search for something I go to Google (images, text, news or whatever!). And anywhere on the internet if I find anything interesting I +1 it.


When I am on the move, I use my phone (I have an Android (Google) based phone). All my contacts are automagically synced with my Google Contacts. Any photos I take are uploaded to Picasa (another Google product). All my meetings and birthday reminders are synchronized with my Google Calendar. I use Google Maps to get directions and when I am bored, I see YouTube videos. If I were in the US, I would be using Google Checkout and Google Music. When I wish to rant about the big bad world I write on Blogger (yeah another Google product) and if you are subscribed to my RSS Feeds or Emails, they are delivered by Feedburner (another Google product). I use Google docs to store all my important documents, and I use Google Finance to keep an eye on all the stocks that I am interested in. The point I am trying to make is – Google products are entrenched in my life everywhere.

And mind you – the main source of Google’s income – 97% (Google Adwords) is neatly embedded in each and everyone of these products and is tracking me and my habits and already providing me relevant advertising and making money. Google Adwords as a third-party plugin is also used on many websites all around the interweb to provide advertisements. With the plugin for the +1 buttons, Google has also started monitoring me at non-Google sites. Now, if Google forces me to have a single identity across all of its own products (it is already doing that – I lost my old Blogger, Feedburner, YouTube accounts) and sooner or later if that identity becomes my g+ login – I end up being a g+ user even if I don't sign up for it explicitly. And that unique g+ identity will be used across the internet by Google.

Comparing g+ to any other social-networking website is doing grave injustice to it. Its not “just” a social-network. It is more like your identity online. Google can simple make g+ the underlying thread (platform) connecting all of these properties (which it is already doing) and in no time it not only has a well established social-network but also a super engaged community using it. The friendly bar that you are seeing on all your Google properties these days is a sign of that community that is going to come (and have you noticed that the “Logoff” option is neatly tucked away).

Google Bar

To give an analogy to things that you do on Facebook today here is how I think it would pan out: All my current contacts in Google (and Android) will automagically get into different circles of my g+ identity. That takes care of the biggest obstacle for a social networking website – making people signup! Facebook photos (the biggest source of photos on the planet now) will be competing with Picasa. Picasa is already tightly integrated with GMail and my Desktop (I am sure a few of you have used the Windows based Picasa which actually scans my entire hard-drive and recognizes my friends from long lost photos). Integrate that with Google+ and I am sure it will go a long way. My +1s will come on your g+ timelines and that will compete with Facebook Like. All the current hullabaloo about social search will be taken care of by the +1 buttons as well. So the URLs that have been +1ed by your friends would appear higher in your search results. Also Facebook chat has a formidable competitor in GTalk. And messaging is best handled by GMail already. Finally, all the feeds that I liked on Google Reader are now necessarily +1ed and can also be shared in my g+ circles.

The few things that Google is left to develop in g+ is Social games (I am sure they are working on it) and have a vibrant third party developer community on it (this rant kind of talks in detail about it!). g+ could also become the singular platform for commenting (like Disqus!) on Blogger, YouTube and on blogs hosted through Wordpress, Typepad etc through a plugin and its pretty much all the identity I need anywhere. Google Checkout and g+ will aid in tracking my buying behaviour as well.

Chrome could then be further tweaked to save my browsing profile attached to my g+ profile. So even before I get onto the internet, I would login to g+ to get the right set of features in my browser, and possibly start browsing from the point where I last left off when I closed my chrome browser. Android and g+ will also make a superb combination – with me being in a position to share specific location based updates with circles of friends on g+ that I choose to.

Emails still are our favourite mode of communication. Also Google docs is awesome for collaboration. Google Calendar + Google Maps + Google Hangout will make arranging events easier! Top that up with Google sites, Blogger and Reader, I think g+ is so far ahead in this game that it is not really competing with anyone. And don't forget the fact that Google has lots of cash on hand. Any property that it buys next will also be deeply integrated into this g+ platform.

Finally, Google is making g+ available for Google Apps for Business. This would mark the first entry of a social-networking platform into business (Yeah chatter was technically the first, but I have never used it). Having g+ across an organization tightly integrated with its email (GMail) and document sharing platform (Docs) will do wonders to the socially active  employees.

The question of monetization without being evil remains. That is a tricky bit I am not sure how Google is going to handle. However, monetization through advertising is one thing that Google can do and is better at, than any other social networking website. Sorry for this long rant. I have been reading a lot of blogs about the imminent death of g+, and I thought I need to voice my thoughts somewhere!

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