Tuesday, December 4, 2012

So why did Google create Google Plus?

It is important to understand why Google introduced Google Plus. You will note that Google does not sell advertising within Google Plus; it was not set up with the intention of becoming a major revenue driver for Google ie Google does not see the role of Google Plus to be to generate a large user base to which advertising can be sold in the same way that Facebook views its user base for example.

Rather, Google is reacting to the uncomfortable reality that their primary quality indicator ie links are becoming increasingly redundant. For example, if someone enjoys their experience at a restaurant, it is far more intuitive and so likely that that user will like the Facebook page of that business as opposed to link to that business’s website. In fact, the vast majority of Web users could not, even if they wanted to, link to another website. The vast majority of Web users could like a business’s Facebook page or even their
website (assuming the like plug in is installed).

So, Google’s job is and has been to “harness the collective intelligence of Web users” to identify what is good content and what is not. To date, this intelligence has manifested itself in links. However, in an increasingly “social world,” social indicators are likely to be far more relevant indicators of quality. So, why doesn’t Google just use the social indicators from third parties such as Facebook likes for example? Because Google does not own this data, to rely on it in order to rank websites would be to cede an immense
amount of power to the third parties.

If Google came to rely heavily on such third party generated data, then it would find itself in a very vulnerable commercial situation should the owner of the data wish to either cut off access to the data or charge exorbitant fees for access. This is best articulated by Amit Singhal, head of search at Google, when he says that algorithm updates that rely on data from third parties are not something that Google is comfortable with http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVzM4n1I-vM . Faced with this dilemma, Google generated its own social network in the hope that users would migrate to it and so provide Google with its own source of quality indicators to augment / replace links. This is the driving force behind the Google +1 concept.

If Google can convince people to use Google Plus and +1 content that they like (far more intuitive than linking to it), it can use this data to understand what content online is high quality. Further, it can customize search results for users based on who they are connected to in their Google Plus network thereby again increasing the relevance / quality of their search product.

Mark Zuckerberg has said that Facebook will do search at some point and when it does, one imagines it will be a pretty potent tool based on the massive amount of intelligence  Facebook has on what we like. As Steve Jobs ran Apple by “skating to where the puck was going to be, not where it had been” maybe we should all be preparing for Facebook search!