I just finished reading a great article by Steven Levey over at Wired on the back story of Google’s most recent push into social networking, Google+. It’s a lengthy piece, but I would definitely recommend the read.
Surely anyone who has followed Google’s past efforts will be skeptical about whether Google can actually pull this off. The company has had quite the scarred past, littered with products such as Orkut, Open Social, Google Wave and Buzz.
In his article, though, Levey talks about how Google has seen the writing on the wall and is finally putting a full-force effort into the social networking realm. This concerted push is turning the company on its head and “‘… transforming Google itself into a social destination at a level and scale that we’ve never attempted — orders of magnitude more investment, in terms of people, than any previous project,’ says Vic Gundotra.”
“Google+ is not a typical release. Developed under the code name Emerald Sea, it is the result of a lengthy and urgent effort involving almost all of the company’s products. Hundreds of engineers were involved in the effort. It has been a key focus for new CEO Larry Page.” – Steven Levey
In fact, Google has already been rolling out features to incorporate with Google+. Its +1 program, for example, is an answer to Facebook’s “like” button, and it makes a lot more sense when you attach a back-end such as Google+.
Google even tied its employee bonus heavily to this effort:
Levey reports that, “… after Larry Page formally took the CEO title, he reportedly mandated that 25 percent of the annual bonus check for all Google employees would be dependent on how well the company does in its social efforts.”
Google believes that there is a sweet spot that has been left open by Twitter and Facebook. According to Shimrit Ben-Yair, a product manager at Google, with Facebook, you overshare because it is a walled garden, but you have your boss and your grandma as your friend. On twitter, he says, you undershare because you know the whole world can see it. I, for one, would love to see this sweet spot actually work.
I have, for a while now, been talking about the growing pressures on Facebook, some of which include:
- Students at CIMS have been working on Diaspora, a valiant effort to produce an open source competitor to Facebook.
- Quit Facebook Day was attended by almost 40,000 people. A small drop in the bucket to Facebook’s 750 million – but it is important to notice.
- Phrases such as “facebook fatigue,” “quit facebook,” “facebook sucks,” and “delete facebook” have been trending in search since 2008.
- Facebook flopped in a recent study done on consumer satisfaction by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. It came in just behind the IRS.
I would tentatively argue that a lot of people use Facebook because there are no other good alternatives. Facebook is almost where Myspace was back in 2008 and 2009. It’s the king of the heap. It has no real competition, but it does have a growing number of dissatisfied users, myself included. Facebook is an AT&T without a Verizon, a Chevy without a Ford, an Apple without a Microsoft. Until now.
Some people may feel it is too little, too late. I would beg to differ that it might just be new enough, just in time. No one has really stepped up to the plate to challenge Facebook, aka the Godzilla of Social Networking. I think the quote from Ben-Yair says it well.
“No one expects an instant success. But even if this week’s launch evokes snark or yawns, Google will keep at it. Google+ is not a product like Buzz or Wave where the company’s leaders can chalk off a failure to laudable ambition and then move on. “We’re in this for the long run. This isn’t like an experiment. We’re betting on this, so if obstacles arise, we’ll adapt.”
Now, the battle over the world’s internet users is transitioning from Godzilla vs Bambi to Godzilla vs King Kong. I’m looking forward to the clash of the titans that is soon to ensue.
[UPDATE] 2011-06-29 16:50:24 – Brian over at engadget got his hands on an invitation and posted a nice walk through.
[UPDATE] 2011-06-29 19:09:56 – Found a video introduction of Google+
[UPDATE] 2011-06-29 23:24:20 – This Week in Google (TWIG) – Video interview covering Google+
[UPDATE] 2011-06-30 09:27:18 – Google opens up, then closes Google+ invites due to “insane demand”
[UPDATE] 2011-07-05 14:46:38 – For now, Google+ is for social media geeks
[UPDATE] 2011-07-12 09:29:23 – Google+ About To Hit 10 Million Users [REPORT]