Tag Archives: Facebook

Why Google Plus is About to Change the Web

Google+From Jason Hiner at the TechRepublic – This is the way Google always wanted social networking to work, and this time the company may have pulled it off.  Google’s previous social attempts have been unmitigated train wrecks, if we’re being completely honest. Open Social failed because Google couldn’t get Facebook and other social networks to buy into the idea of a shared social identity. Google Wave missed the target by not being useful enough to attract any users. Google Buzz freaked people out by naively overstepping its bounds on privacy.

So when Google unveiled its latest social experiment last week — called Google+ — I was extremely skeptical. Still, Facebook is so malignant in terms of privacy and such a mess to use and configure, that I was more than happy to give Google+ a try. I just expected it that it would be a speed-dating relationship like most of my product reviews and destined to last no more than a few weeks at the most.

Damn, was I wrong. After almost a week, I fully expect this Google+ thing to turn into a long-term relationship. I mean we’re not buying matching workout suits or anything yet, but this is definitely more than just a crush on the hot, new thing.

To start, Google+ is what Google calls a “field trial” — a fancy way to say that it’s still in beta. For now, it is open mostly to technology industry insiders and the press. Google reasoned that since reporters were going to be writing about Plus anyway, they might as well let them to kick the tires. Wise move.

Vic Gundotra, Google’s SVP of Social and the head guy in charge of Plus, said, ”We chose the initial seed very carefully. We wanted a lot of diversity, so we have people that represent over 42 of the world’s languages… We’re trying to really test the product, make sure that we meet people’s privacy expectations, that the systems are working, [and] that we can scale. We’ll slowly grow that initial seed as we’re ready.”

The other Google executive running the Plus project, Bradley Horowitz, added, ”Field trial is the right term. That’s not a euphemism. There’s a lot of rough edges in there and a lot of learning we have to do. The feedback we got in the first 24 hours is tremendous.”

Even with its rough edges and without the masses of humanity having access to Google+, the core experience is pretty powerful and it’s easy to see where Google is going with this.

As I wrote over the weekend while diving into Google+, the most attractive part is how easy it is to find, add, and organize your friends (I cited that as the main reason you won’t hate Google+). The friend issue is the heart of all social networks, although it’s so obvious that it’s often overlooked. In fact, Twitter still isn’t very good it, Facebook is a little better, but both of them now look like neophytes compared to the way Google+ does it.

The friend feature on Google+ is called “Circles” and it turns out to be an intuitive mashup of friending (from Facebook) and following (from Twitter). Circles are basically sets of friends that you can drag and drop into groups mirroring your existing social circles — Family & Friends, Colleagues, Local Techies, etc. — rather than just the one big lump of friends you have on Facebook that can result in moments of “worlds colliding” since you have to share all of your updates with all of your friends. On Google+ you can selectively send updates to different circles, and you can also quickly click between the news streams of your different circles.

You can also make circles for people you don’t necessarily know but are interested in following their updates (e.g. Tech Journalists, Famous Engineers, Web Celebrities, etc.). This is where Google+ echoes Twitter because people don’t have to follow you back in order for you to add them to one of your Circles. At that point you’ll see all of their public updates, and most of these folks make the majority of their updates public in order to be seen by more people (it’s the whole social media narcissism meme and it has already transplanted itself on Google Plus).

The real killer feature to Circles in Google+ is how easy it is to find and add friends. Everywhere you see a user’s name or avatar you can simply mouse over it, click “Add to Circles” and then select which circle to add them to. On Twitter, it took me about three years to find about 200 really interesting people (mostly in technology and the media) worth following. It took me less than three days to find that many on Google Plus. Of course, most of them are the same people, so Google+ has the advantage of speed by letting us quickly re-coagulate our existing social graph on the new service.

Google+ Circles

I’m not predicting Google+ will replace Facebook and/or Twitter. This will definitely not be a zero sum game. Facebook has the most to lose from Google Plus, but it’s going to be years before Aunt Jenny and your plumber show up on Google+ the way they recently showed up on Facebook (and it’s possible they never will). All three of these social networks — Facebook, Google+, and Twitter — will still be going strong three years from now. People will gravitate to them for different reasons. They’ll go to Twitter for news and to cyber-stalk celebraties. They’ll got Facebook for private networking, water cooler chats, and games.

So where will that leave Google+?

I’m glad you asked, because that’s the real point here (sorry to bury the lede). To start, Google+ is mostly going to be made up of digital influencers — technology executives, entrepreneurs, and professionals, as well as social media mavens and technophiles in the press. Don’t underestimate the power of this broad group. It’s the same group that has catapulted Twitter and Foursquare into mainstream consciousness in recent years. A large percentage of this group is already in the “initial seed” of Google+ users and they are the ones who have been raving about it for the past week. Look for a lot of them to decrease (but not eliminate) their Facebook usage and spend more time on Google Plus.

However, once you get past the technorati, then the story is going to get really interesting, because in the long run, Google+ is going to be less of a destination and more like the connective social tissue of the Web. I’m talking about social networking moving beyond a walled garden like Facebook or even a controlled ecosystem like Twitter.

Pieces of Google+ are likely to be decentralized with tentacles extending across the Web, the mobile Web, and various computer, smartphone and tablet platforms. In some ways, Facebook and Twitter have started doing this already. They’ve put share buttons and boxes on external sites. They’ve launched client apps for multiple platforms. Facebook has even allowed sites to use the Facebook platform as their engine for user comments. However, the ultimate goal for Facebook and Twitter is to drive users back to their sites where they can be monetized.

Google has a different goal. It needs all of this social data about what people like, how they are socially related, what content they share the most, what context they share it in, and more in order to power its search engine and better organize the world’s information. That means Google’s social motivations have little to do with driving people back to plus.google.com. It’s ultimately about enhancing search and not allowing Facebook to hoard so much of the world’s social data.

That’s why Google has already submitted it’s iOS app to the Apple App Store. That’s why it is already talking about opening up Google+ Hangouts (group video chat) to other video services and clients. It’s why Google is putting little +1s all across the Web and in its search results (even though they aren’t very well connected to Google+ yet). In order to satisfy its appetite for social data, Google ultimately needs Google+ to be ubiquitous across virtually all platforms — both in terms of accessing the service from devices but even more so in terms of micro-connections to the service from third party apps and sites.

Think of +1 integrated into mobile content apps, Q&A sites, blog comments, product reviews, music services like Pandora, etc. Now, imagine reading a product review and giving it +1 and then instantly seeing what all of the people in your “Tech Pros” circle have posted about that product — all without leaving the site you’re on. That’s where I see Google going with this and that’s where this could permanently change social networking on the Web into a much more integrated experience. And, if Google+ succeeds, it would likely force Facebook and Twitter to move in a similar direction.

Nevertheless, one big question here is how far will Google go with the open strategy? Can it avoid the temptation of giving Google+ pre-eminence to its internal platforms, such as Android, Chrome browser, Chrome OS, Gmail, and others? Will it build great apps and functionality for other platforms as well? For example, will it build a client for Windows Phone 7, even though Microsoft is its biggest rival in search? Will it work with Apple to make FaceTime (which has also promised open standards) compatible with Google+ Hangouts? Those are the kinds of litmus tests I’m going to be watching for.

Still, “Google+” is the perfect name for this because it’s ultimately an add-on and a force-multiplier to the existing Google experience, especially its search engine but also to the broader Web in general. Google+ will be a social layer on top the existing Web. At least that’s the vision. This time, Google might just pull it off.

So why is this important to you at all?  We at Hansen Web Design track emerging social networking technologies carefully because down the road, it may be important to your business, just as Facebook and Twitter are now.  Smart businesses know how to take advantage of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media to extend their reach and marketability.

Keep an eye on Google+.  It will likely be a player.  The exact role it plays in your business has yet to be determined, but watching it and understanding it will make it much easier later.

Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter

Michael McDonald of San Francisco used to post his videos on a blog, but now he uses Facebook. Like any aspiring filmmaker, Michael, a high school senior, used a blog to show off his videos. But discouraged by how few people bothered to visit, he instead started posting his clips on Facebook, where his friends were sure to see and comment on his editing skills.

“I don’t use my blog anymore,” said Mr. McDonald, who lives in San Francisco. “All the people I’m trying to reach are on Facebook.”

Blogs were once the outlet of choice for people who wanted to express themselves online. But with the rise of sites like Facebook and Twitter, they are losing their allure for many people — particularly the younger generation.

The Internet and American Life Project at the Pew Research Center found that from 2006 to 2009, blogging among children ages 12 to 17 fell by half; now 14 percent of children those ages who use the Internet have blogs. Among 18-to-33-year-olds, the project said in a report last year, blogging dropped two percentage points in 2010 from two years earlier.

Former bloggers said they were too busy to write lengthy posts and were uninspired by a lack of readers. Others said they had no interest in creating a blog because social networking did a good enough job keeping them in touch with friends and family.

Blogging started its rapid ascension about 10 years ago as services like Blogger and LiveJournal became popular. So many people began blogging — to share dieting stories, rant about politics and celebrate their love of cats — that Merriam-Webster declared “blog” the word of the year in 2004.

Defining a blog is difficult, but most people think it is a Web site on which people publish periodic entries in reverse chronological order and allow readers to leave comments.

Yet for many Internet users, blogging is defined more by a personal and opinionated writing style. A number of news and commentary sites started as blogs before growing into mini-media empires, like The Huffington Post or Silicon Alley Insider, that are virtually indistinguishable from more traditional news sources.

Blogs went largely unchallenged until Facebook reshaped consumer behavior with its all-purpose hub for posting everything social. Twitter, which allows messages of no longer than 140 characters, also contributed to the upheaval.

No longer did Internet users need a blog to connect with the world. They could instead post quick updates to complain about the weather, link to articles that infuriated them, comment on news events, share photos or promote some cause — all the things a blog was intended to do.

Indeed, small talk shifted in large part to social networking, said Elisa Camahort Page, co-founder of BlogHer, a women’s blog network. Still, blogs remain a home of more meaty discussions, she said.

“If you’re looking for substantive conversation, you turn to blogs,” Ms. Camahort Page said. “You aren’t going to find it on Facebook, and you aren’t going to find it in 140 characters on Twitter.”

Lee Rainie, director of the Internet and American Life Project, says that blogging is not so much dying as shifting with the times. Entrepreneurs have taken some of the features popularized by blogging and weaved them into other kinds of services.

“The act of telling your story and sharing part of your life with somebody is alive and well — even more so than at the dawn of blogging,” Mr. Rainie said. “It’s just morphing onto other platforms.”

The blurring of lines is readily apparent among users of Tumblr. Although Tumblr calls itself a blogging service, many of its users are unaware of the description and do not consider themselves bloggers — raising the possibility that the decline in blogging by the younger generation is merely a semantic issue.

Kim Hou, a high school senior in San Francisco, said she quit blogging months ago, but acknowledged that she continued to post fashion photos on Tumblr. “It’s different from blogging because it’s easier to use,” she said. “With blogging you have to write, and this is just images. Some people write some phrases or some quotes, but that’s it.”

The effect is seen on the companies providing the blogging platforms. Blogger, owned by Google, had fewer unique visitors in the United States in December than it had a year earlier — a 2 percent decline, to 58.6 million — although globally, Blogger’s unique visitors rose 9 percent, to 323 million.

LiveJournal, another blogging service, has decided to emphasize communities. Connecting people who share an interest in celebrity gossip, for instance, provides the social interaction that “classic” blogging lacks, said Sue Rosenstock, a spokeswoman for LiveJournal, which is owned by SUP, a Russian online media company. “Blogging can be a very lonely occupation; you write out into the abyss,” she said.

Source:  The New York Times

At Hansen Web Design, we realize the importance of social integration and your website, and we can help you integrate Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others.  With platforms like WordPress, you can post news on your website and Facebook simultaneously!  Need help setting up a Facebook business page?  We can assist you with that as well.  Call or email us today!