Being Beta

Exercises in the higher banter with One of 26. Elsewhere called 'poet of adland'. By a whipple-squeezer. Find out why being beta is the new alpha: betarish at googlemail dot com

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Commercial: Google+ equals what?

I'm cross-posting this from Geoff's blog, as I had a hand in drafting it...

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So I’ve only just blagged my way on to Google+, and no I won’t go on about how hurt I am that it’s taken this long for me to get an invite.

Of course its early doors, and you can’t come to a proper judgement until there some sort of critical mass of people on there. But with over 10 million signed up now, that shouldn’t be too long now.

First impressions? It looks good, a lot better than Google products tend to, some lovely functionality going on, and clearly it’s going to be a big player.

But (and you just knew there was a ‘but’ coming) there’s one big flaw that I can see with it so far. It’s asking you to think deeply – and far more deeply than we’ve been trained to do – about stuff that you really don’t want to think too deeply about.

Consider the quick update you want to write or the whizzy new video you want to share. Instead of just whacking it up, Google+ is asking you now to think explicitly about who it’s right for. Do they happen to be in the right circle? Do I have to create a new one just for them?

The point is those circles could soon have to resemble Venn diagrams, balkanizing your mates, and bringing an artificial complexity to something that should be simple.

But, I hear you cry, isn’t that like the real world? It is, to a point. But we behave like that instinctively offline, and I doubt the extent we want to learn to behave like that online. (And as a side note, has anyone actually +1’d a search result yet? It’s like the algorithm has got all shy and bashful, and instead of confidently presenting results now wants a reassuring pat on the head.)

I don’t think, unlike Rish, that Google don’t get social. On the evidence of Wired’s behind the scenes piece, they’ve now got enough people in place who do. But they clearly are trying to do something outside their comfort zone: make something sticky, where people want to spend time hanging out. That’s a big shift for them.

And my instinct is that this, unlike Gmail, Adwords or Android, isn’t a game changer. It’s a catch up. Google+ equals a ‘me too’ offering. And that sort of sum rarely adds up in the long run.

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