Google launches new products and features constantly. Some of these products gain widespread adoption, like GMail, and others eventually whither and die, like Wave. In this age of the internet, the question is now whether Google expects some of these products to fail and is just releasing them to see what features people like.
As an example, look at Google Wave. Wave was extremely aggressive in what it was trying to do, reinventing email and collaboration. In hindsight, we can easily say that the change was too great for mainstream adoption, but there were a lot of people that love using Wave for collaboration. What if Wave was really just a market test of real-time technologies and collaboration? If that was the case, then Wave was hugely successful in testing real-time collaboration. They also received useful feedback on their “reinvention” of email and saw first-hand how resistant to change people can be.
Timing is also another important feature of these types of market tests. Google Buzz was released and had privacy issues around the same time that Facebook was having serious privacy issues. Buzz was not a reinvention of email, but it was a limited foray into changing your inbox. It looks just like any other folder. Sometimes Buzz items end up in your inbox because you commented on them as well. Buzz saw some backlash about the integration with email, but that criticism did not really stick with the product. Maybe Google was onto something.
In the past few months we have also seen the “real life social network” presentation from Google researcher Paul Adams. The presentation talks about the limitations of current social networks and how people really interact differently with their various circles of friends. That presentation spurred many of the rumors about the possibility of a new social network called Google Me.
Now, we see that Google Orkut has received an interesting update.
we all maintain different groups of friends (or “social circles”), and the Internet was not able to reflect that. Until now, social networks treated people from different groups like they were all the same: they were all “friends” … To make it easier for you to interact with your groups of friends, now you can open them from your homepage. Your groups will always be a click away from you, on the top of the page.
So, social circles are being introduced to Orkut where you can share items differently with each group. This is very interesting timing. Orkut is getting some nice updates, and people continue to talk about Google Me. Social features are starting to permeate all of Google’s products. Lots of products are getting mobile updates. Even the Contacts application has been recently and nicely revamped. What if all of these changes are really related to Google’s new social push and Google Me?
Think about Google Me with the following features:
- Messaging provided by GMail
- IM provided by Google Talk
- Google Buzz integrated with the basic status updates on the network
- Orkut, new and improved with social circles provides the core social network features and a platform to build upon
- Google Docs integration so that you can share documents with specific social circles
- Picasa integration so that you can share pictures with specific social circles
- Wave integration so that a specific social circle can have real-time collaboration features.
- Latitude integration in order to share location information with specific social circles
I would not call this a Facebook killer, but I would be very impressed if this is what Google Me had in store for us. It takes a long time to kill an application with 500 million users. The difference in this case is that Google has millions of users already in various products and could quickly ramp up to 100 million users. That would make for an interesting battle between Google and Facebook.