Saturday, July 2, 2011

Google Plus is more than just a social network destination

Google recently unveiled its latest foray into social networking. Since then, there have been the inevitable comparisons to Facebook. There are some who say that most of the features of Google Plus (G+) are already available in Facebook (FB). There are others who say that G+ will fail as a social networking site. There are many who claim that FB has nothing to worry from G+.

Most of the people who make the above claims are looking at G+ as a social networking website similar to FB. It's true that there are a few elements of G+, the home screen being the most prominent, that are similar to FB. But there ends the comparison. G+ is not just a social networking destination. G+ is a whole new Google. Hence the name Google Plus!

What Google is attempting to do with G+ is to rethink all its products and services, in order to bake social features aka sharing features into them. There are two things about the way that Google is doing this that have very high significance:
  • Google is not just tacking on sharing features to existing products. It is rethinking these products from the inside out, from the bottom up so that sharing features are natural, intuitive and organic in these products.
  • Google is also unifying all its products and services using a single layer. The current form of this single unifying layer is a dark tool bar that permeates all its products. This could take other forms in the future.
There are a few far reaching consequences of the above two actions by Google:
  • It may not be very apparent right now, but there is no separate G+ social networking site that users can accept or reject. Simply by using one or more of Google's many fabulous products and services, you become a participant in G+.
  • The unification that G+ brings to all of Google's services was a crucial missing element during all these years that Google offered many different services. Now that G+ neatly unifies all these services, the chances of people using many more than one Google service are higher than ever before. For example, if you were a user of just Google Search and GMail all these years, there is a much higher chance now that you might also start using Google's photo, calendar and video chat services.
  • The net result is that, unless all of Google's services fail, there is simply no question of G+ failing.
During all these years that Facebook was growing into the Internet's No. 1 social destination, while Google's attempts at collaboration and sharing such as Wave and Buzz did not take off as expected, there were many people who wrote off Google all too readily and not a little gleefully. They claimed that Google had absolutely no access to the social web and social was not in Google's DNA. These claims always puzzled me because I could see that through its many products and services, Google had access to much more social information about the Internet citizens worldwide, than FB or any other service ever did. All that Google needed to do was simply present a unified interface and view of the seemingly disparate services. That is what Google Plus is all about.

Funny thing is, even now many people are unable to go beyond an apples to apples comparison of Google and Facebook. If Facebook is the most popular lake in the world to which all the people come to play, Google is the ocean permeating the whole world. It is an ocean in which people play, work, do business, connect with loved ones, travel, etc. An ocean without which we cannot imagine modern life as we know it. FB and G+ are not even in the same league!

Edit on 7/5/2011: Don't know why I didn't think of this when publishing this post last week. G+ integration with Google Apps! This is going to give instant social media implementation on many company intranets. Yet another reason why G+ will be a success. But the real success of this will be when G+ is integrated with Google Apps for schools and colleges. People will be hooked onto G+ from a very young age in the normal course of their school and college work. And when they graduate, they will continue using G+. Does this remind you of any other social network? ;-)