For whatever reason, Google decided to release three different things on one day. Due to such an event, the blogosphere had a collective heart attack and had no idea what to write about. I am going to look at the three announcements and talk about what they really mean.
First, we can look at the Google Commerce Search announcement. This is another foray into e-commerce for Google, where they have struggled significantly. However, this one has a good chance of sticking around as it puts e-commerce into Google’s core competency, search:
Search quality is a big factor in changing visitors to buyers online, and in making customers happy too. Visitors spend an average of just eight seconds before deciding whether or not to remain on a website, so having a good search tool is important for turning visitors into buyers. Google Commerce Search is hosted by and uses Google search technology to make online retail searching both fast and customizable — visitors to your online store can sort by category, price, brand or any other attribute.
This is an interesting move given what else Google has in its product list. If you combine Google Sites, Google Checkout and Google Commerce Search, you basically have all of the makings of a hosted e-commerce site. Granted it would not be entirely easy to setup, but these are all steps in that direction. This will definitely be an interesting choice for smaller e-commerce stores that can not afford the major platform vendors. Of course, a nice side benefit of all of this is that anyone with a Google account will probably be giving even more data to Google. Which brings us to the other two announcements.
Google finally announced a way to see almost everything Google knows about you. Google Dashboard gives you a quick look at your Google accounts:
Today, we are excited to announce the launch of Google Dashboard. Have you ever wondered what data is stored with your Google Account? The Google Dashboard offers a simple view into the data associated with your account — easily and concisely in one location.
Generally, this would just be a nice thing to see, as people have been clamoring for a way to see all of their account data. However, I believe this is the start of Google’s account management component of their social network. I am not talking about Orkut, I am talking about the network they are building based on everything you do. All of your GMail contacts, Google Reader connections, Talk contacts, YouTube friends, and any other way you have connected with people through Google services are contained within your Google network. Google knows more about who you email, chat and talk to than anyone else on the web. It is a logical step for them to converge their services into your “real-life” network.
This brings me to the last announcement yesterday, the extension of Google Friend Connect. There are some really interesting features that have been added with this new update:
- A new “Interests” section on the friend connect account for site owners, where the site owner gets to ask questions of new members to learn more about them.
- The ability for people to send private messages to each other
- A new “Community data” section where the interests people share on your website are shown in pretty graphs
- A site owner can send custom newsletters to the community members
- The new personalized content gadget automatically presents a dynamic personalized set of links to your site’s content that matches each visitor’s specific interests.
- A site owner’s Friend Connect account now includes an “AdSense” section that lets you enable Google ad units that are matched to the site’s content and to the interests users publicly share on your website.
Some of these new features stress social and community, but some of this is entirely geared towards marketing and monetization. If people add interests, they can be marketed to through newsletters, custom content from your site and (hopefully) relevant advertising.
If you look at the Friend Connect features in conjunction with the other announcements it looks much more interesting. You are now expanding your network based on your communities and the interests that you have. By adding these interests, you will be shown more relevant advertising, which will likely be based on your commerce searches as well. It may not all seem related when you look at the separate announcements, but if you look at your new Google Dashboard, Google is already putting all of this together.