Google launched Google+ this week, and there have been many excellent posts highlighting its potential as well as its challenges. My first impressions are very positive. I will not regurgitate any of the points already made by others, and will limit this post to what I think has been missed.
Relevance: “The Mother Of All Streams”
Most of the commentary about Google Plus so far has focused on its social feature – “Circles”, a new way of grouping contacts for targeted sharing. But as I’ve said before, the future belongs to the Interest Graph complementing the Social Graph.
Facebook has done a not-so-great job capturing users’ interests. Many people have ‘Liked’ hundreds of pages just because they were asked to do so by their friends. Facebook’s obsession with and overreliance on the social graph has corrupted their interest graph, and this might well be Facebook’s Achilles Heel in the long term.
Google Plus takes a different approach. The goal of Sparks is to capture your true interests. It is in a primitive state at present, but I’m talking about the Big Picture here! As Andrew Tomkins explains:
“Sparks is essentially the stuff that flows to you through the interest graph and the stream is the stuff that flows to you through the social graph”
This is precisely what I described was the secret sauce behind Quora:
Quora’s newsfeed is an interesting showcase of what happens when you mix an Interest Graph with a Social Graph – and the result is the mysterious addictiveness so many have experienced, but found difficult to explain.
Steven Levy goes on to explain how the Google Plus team plans to mix these two to create the “mother of all streams”.
Also: Once Google gets to know you better, it can help provide more relevant search results. Classic search disambiguation problem – when user searches for ‘apple’ is it for the fruit or the company? Your interests from Sparks can help Google learn what you’re looking for.
Why Quora Should Be Worried
It was reported earlier today that code for Questions has been found in Google Plus. If this comes as a surprise, you haven’t understood Google’s ambitions with Emerald Sea.
Unlike Quora, where users/moderators need to manually tag Questions to fit their taxonomy, Google could easily auto-tag questions. Further, it could easily AutoComplete your Question in a way Quora could only hope. And even further, in many situations, Google could answer your question without waiting for a human being to respond.
Imagine such a Q&A service working across mobile devices, where Google knows your location and much more about your interests and friends.
Why Facebook Should Be Worried
AllFacebook has a great post on how Google Plus is a challenge for Facebook. Some folks have already opined that Facebook has nothing to fear, that the mainstream users are not going to join Google Plus and quit Facebook in droves. But pundits have been wrong before.
I wouldn’t dismiss Google Plus so quickly if I were Facebook. Challenges for Google Plus:
- Critical Mass: Google Plus needs a critical mass of users if its ever to gain mainstream acceptance. However, these are very early days, and early adopter response has been largely positive.
- Games: Mainstream users love games. Google is reported to have invested in Zynga, while Facebook has had a rocky relationship with them. What if the next Farmville were to launch exclusively on Google Plus and not on Facebook?
- Simplicity: As it stands today, Google Plus is not actually more complicated than Facebook, it just feels like it because it is new. Try introducing Facebook to a first time user and walk through the different features, and you’ll agree that Facebook has slowly evolved to a much more complex service with a plethora of components. Google Plus will need to become simple and intuitive to attract a sizeable mass of followers before adding new features.
There are a lot of unknowns, and my take is that it’s too early to make predictions. In any case, the stickiness factor of Google Plus is a big challenge for Facebook.
I am very impressed with what I’ve seen so far. There are challenges, but for once, I think the Emerald Sea team is seeing things in the right perspective and making all the right moves. In Feb 2010, I explained Why Google Buzz Doesn’t KISS. So far, Google Plus does.