It is interesting how the technology news industry works. Most of the time we see a lot of reprints of press releases, but recently we saw a ton of posts due to a single Twitter update. Kevin Rose dropped a rumor, and every major tech blog has covered it. Is Google Me for real? Is Google really going after Facebook? Yes, and yes, and you should have assumed it to be true anyway. Facebook is making a ton of money and their only major revenue stream is advertising. Google must be drooling over the potential revenue.
As we have seen during the amazing rise of Facebook, many other social networks have stagnated, died or changed directions. Google’s Orkut is just one example, MySpace is another. So, what makes this time any different? Now, people know what works. People know what keeps people engaged on social networks. The social components of the web have evolved as well.
So, what does Google need to do to make their rumored foray into social networking succeed? Not surprisingly, there are already several opinions about this. The Next Web has two ideas. First, they think that it should be a combination of Orkut and Buzz. The second thing they mention is that Google should not target Facebook, but target LinkedIn. Taking a business-oriented approach is a good idea, mainly because Facebook is heavily targeted towards casual usage and informal conversations. However, going completely business-oriented would be a mistake because it would be limiting the potential user population.
First, what features does Google Me require?
- Simple connection building, including autodiscovery of connections using various email and social network accounts. Some people will initially be upset by this, but every other network already does this.
- Deep integration of Google Buzz. Buzz is the FriendFeed clone that would work perfectly as the sharing technology of choice. It does more than Twitter, and it is getting easier to use. It is also very similar to Facebook’s current stream.
- Deep integration of Google Profiles. The profiles that Google have built are quite informative and extensive. They can quickly be cleaned up to be a solid social network profile page.
- Integration of Google Places. Inclusion of Google Places, previously known as Local Business Center, would be a huge bonus for small businesses. It would make Google Me leap ahead of Facebook’s business offerings.
- APIs from Orkut. Orkut may not be a popular social network, but it does have a solid set of APIs and it is based on OpenSocial.
- Simple Application Platform. Steal this idea from Facebook as it is core to their success. The widgets scattered in various Google applications have not really been adopted, but Facebook hit a home run with their platform.
- Integration of Google Analytics. I am not talking about the complete suite of reports, but having some level of basic statistics, even for profile views, would be a good idea. People could track every page view, every link click and quickly gather some social metrics this way.
Also important is what to omit. TechCrunch has an excellent opinion on this:
What Google shouldn’t do – must not do – is try to tie the service to other Google products for the wrong reasons. Microsoft’s web properties are constantly hobbled by the strategic decisions of a parent company that must protect an aging Windows and Office revenue stream, for example. Google must avoid that pitfall.
As an example, there is no reason to hook in Google Docs. People do not want an office suite in their social network yet. This is especially true when you first launch. Also, GMail should remain a separate service in the beginning. Let people sign up with an email service of their choice, with the address being hidden. You can allow people to send messages to each other and send everything to their preferred email address. Eventually, you can bake email into the network, but do not shove it down people’s throats at the beginning. Google Reader should not be integrated, except for the integration it has with Buzz. Trying to make a social network the only site a person visits is a quick way to fail. Picasa can be avoided initially as well. Why? Because you need to find a good way to integrate Picasa and Flickr without being too Google-centric. YouTube does not need to be integrated either as long as people can share links.
[UPDATE] Somehow I forgot about Google Wave, and thanks to a comment I will now include my opinion. Wave should not find its way into the initial launch of the social network. The comment mentions the main reasons as well, it is too heavy and too complicated for mainstream usage. It could be added later, and would be great for groups and collaboration but it is definitely something that should not be integrated into the main experience.
That is probably enough information for a quick overview. Are there applications that I missed that should be included? Or are there more applications that should be omitted?
Please ignore this code WSTXS88MVR99