According to some, Google+ is the purest gold and to others, it is already dead. Personally, I don’t care one way or the other. But I do believe that Google aimed too far inside the box.
Now, I haven’t played enough with Google+ and haven’t sought all the different ways to jury-rig it to act like the Facebook which I claim to detest but hope to replicate. Nor would I flock to it simply because (God forbid) Facebook updated itself. But the problem isn’t with what Google+ is, it is what it isn’t. Or, more appropriately, that it is. Let me explain.
Google is known for innovation. In fact, after Apple, only Google comes to mind in the “most innovative” category. So when Google was sitting on the sidelines during the massive blowup of Facebook, now with 800 million people, with a recent day logging in 500 million different users in a single day, it seemed strange that Google wasn’t taking part.
And then they did. They took part by trying to build another Facebook. That’s not innovative enough. Circles are great. Yeah, it is like Twitter and Facebook integrated. Woo. I sort of have that already. Expansion is not innovation.
Google is the only company with enough users already to take on Facebook, but the problem is that very 20th Century thinking of “taking on” one’s “competitors”. In Web 2.1, Google and Facebook aren’t supposed to be competitors; at least not in the Industrial Revolution, Enlightenment sense. They aren’t supposed to beat each other up; they’re supposed to out-innovate the other.
That is Google’s missed opportunity with Google+. Everyone has a Facebook account. And nearly everyone has a Google account. Google doesn’t need much else, but to build their account to integrate with everything. They should make the Google ID into the universal access card. One identity everywhere. Let Facebook have its playground. Google should be playing in every playground.
Here’s how it would work and why it is different from Google+. Before there was Google+, you just stayed logged in to Google all the time. You could use Buzz to communicate and blog at Blogger and all of that. But all that Google really needed to do was to beef up the Google ID. Make it ubiquitous. Make it plug in everywhere.
The first awesome use of this idea is really simple, really cool, and totally uninvasive: About.me. A simple site that lets you put up a virtual business card. Mine is right here. Go take a look and come right back. I’ll wait.
From About.me, you can look up all of the places I am online. The site integrates with all of the big social media services so it easily allows people to integrate with me. In the dashboard, it uses analytics to keep track of how many views you get and all of that. I love this site and think it has incredible potential. And to be fair, Google should just buy it and beef it up. But this is what Google should have done with social media.
A similar innovation is the blogging platform, Posterous (click here to see mine, though you might be reading it there...). It is a cross between blogger and tumblr, but it integrates with everything and lets you post once and send it out everywhere. Very powerful and simple.
This is where Google should have gone. Don’t rebuild the Model T from the ground up. Make the Model T one of the cars on the lot.
And the kicker is that they could have just done this. No big Google+ roll out, no red carpet entrance, no glitzy Facebook-is-so-passe articles about beating each other up after class. Just use what you’ve got to totally remake the ground under the playground.
Of course, it is still early. Google hasn’t shown all of their cards. And they certainly are open to trying many different strategies, and as we’ve seen recently, pluck them after they’ve withered. Right now, Google+ is not a bad business move, and may lead to the next innovation, but Google could have done so much more.