Social Search : What Google+ is really meant to do

Google Social Logo
Image courtesy http://www.clickindia.com
Those of you who are regular followers of Google and have read my previous article titled Google Plus : The new DNA of Google , you must have observed that there was one  omission and it was obvious. I had listed 9 reasons and the tenth reason was missing. It was obvious and the tenth reason is Social Search.

From inception to implementation of Google+ one thing that the guys at the helm of Google+ would have been praying for must that Facebook doesn't start a search engine by themselves.

The reason was that Facebook was sitting on a treasure trove of social data of their customer base which Google didn't have.
Google should thankful,  for the Microsoft's deal with Facebook which I need now remind, was a miserable failure.  Quoting from my previous article, in the pre-Google+ era

Google was loosing the ground because the web world had moved on from paradigm of SEARCH - which was its strength to the paradigm of SOCIAL NETWORKING - at which it had miserably failed.
and the Google's ideal response would have been, like any pragmatic man would do, to use what you are good at(search) to foray into something that you want to be good at (social-networking). But Google came out with a master stroke. It combined both and thus gave rise to Social Search. But to do all these Google wanted time and that is what exactly the Facebook-Microsoft(Bing) deal gave them.

With all the time in their exposure Google worked out a good strategy for their Social Search. Google's social search strategy is a two layered one, and that is what makes it a more blended combination I would say. Infusing search in to social and infusing social into search.

1. Infusing Search into Social : With the vast experience that Google has in search, it will be carried on into their social endeavors making it easier for us to search the vast data that will be generated. It's already a breeze for us to search for our friends on Google+ as Google gives first preferences to people in our circles. next to people in our contacts and then other people with google profiles.

In some time(may be a few weeks from now) we will be able to search  all the public posts also. So next time you want to search for an article that was posted by your friend you don't need to go to his profile. Just type the the words from the article title in the search bar on Google+. What it means is Google is giving you an additional interface to search and it is a reducing one critical step(opening google.com in a new window) when you want search for something

And since google has a suit of its own applications, it might as well let you search for your documents, photos and videos. The reason being that when you are sharing something, it is highly probable that you will share one of your doc from google or a pic from picassa or a video from your youtube account.

2. Infusing Social into Search : Infusing search into social was just a necessity or a add on. The real fun lies in this part, infusing social into search. Search is what Google is good at, it is the search that should stay at the heart of the Google strategy. 

Though a lot of content will created from Google+, what we have to realize is that when a user creates some content on Google+, it is Google that makes money out of it. So the users who are looking at financial returns will still stick to their websites and blogs for content creation. But however Google+ will be used by the end users for content filtering(removing uninteresting content) and content delivery(getting links to relevant content). And content publishers will use it for promoting their articles.

But yes, as users start spending more time on Google+, google will start filling it with ads and monetizing it. But it will be a grave mistake on Google's part to assume it will be a dependable source of income. Social Networking is yet in its nascent stage and has been too whimsical to bet on. Friendster which was considered as the grand daddy of  social networking site was dethroned by Facebook in a very short span of time. With the release of Google+, Facebook which seemed to be infallible seems to showing up some cracks now and Twitter which seemed so relevant till now seems to obsolete, if Google+ goes on be successful. So in essence Social Networking is a fragile playground whereas Search has firm foundation. There has been nobody close to Google, on the search front. (Caveat : In the times to come as social networking gains momentum,  he who has the most social content and an average search algorithm will  have more chances of becoming the most successful Search Engine)

In infusing social into search Google has combine five micro-strategies.

1. Posts and shares from your friends : When you search for a keyword, content that is created or shared by people in your circles or extended circles will start getting higher priority. This has already started taking place in the name of personalisation and with Google+ it is only going to get rampant. It follows a simple logic that when your friends like something there is high chance that you will like it.

2. Google Plus One in search : This is one area Google scores over Facebook Like. WRT Facebook you should visit a website and the website must have implemented Facebook like for you to Like something. Or your friends must have shared the link on facebook for you to like it. But when it comes to Google, it scrawls almost all the sites and hence they show up in Google search. So in-spite of a site not implementing Google+ you can still Plus One it, which gives Google a major advantage. And your Plus Oned results not only make your friends search more relevant but also it helps you to check the results that you had Plus oned last time you had searched for similar keywords.

3. Google profile pics with search results : When Google renders the search results for you, it provides the profile pic as a link to the Google+ profile if any of your friends had shared that search result in prior or has authored it. Over the time Google author will help us link articles with authors and this will surely make our searches more meaningful. With a link to the Author's Google+ profile, it will make it more easier for people for add them to their circles in Google+ and get the updates.

4. Real time data : As the deal with twitter has come to an end. Google will very soon start featuring the real time updates from Google+ public posts. Adding a sense of dynamism and democracy to the search results.

5. Linking accounts : Based on your username and profile data Google comes out with a suggestion of  your probable accounts from various other sites and provides you with an option to link them up. Though it appears pretty naive and normal. Google is trying to position itself as your gateway for Internet.  Once you link your accounts, in the search results it highlights the links that you have shared on twitter or facebook. Though it appears to be egalitarian at first sight, Google might be pushing a little harder here. But it is a master move. Since social networking is a very fragile area, by linking the accounts

Google is just making sure that irrespective of who succeeds on the social networking front, it is just making sure that Google search stays social. 

Google is competing with the other services where it can and  collaborating with them where it can't.

which is commendable. So in this sense Google Search is the first Social Search. And google would be happy to position itself as the Best Social Search Engine irrespective of who get to rule the social networking world.

                                                                                                         Author : Gokul NK

The social prism

There are too many websites out there. While catering to some specific requirements, the other few are generic in nature and a few of them are so bizzare that it is hard to comprehend how  people came out with such ideas. But the number of such online services has been growing constantly and exponentially. This conversation prism tries to capture most used such sites from all the domains. How many of these do you use on a day to day basis?

For a high resolution image visit The Conversation Prism Website

Google Plus : The new DNA of Google

(Gokul NK is passionate Web 2.0 follower and works on open source softwares for a living)

For anybody who has been sitting back and observing Google for some time (with many questions in their head), with the beta release of Google Plus, things would be falling in line now. It all looks like a part of a long time strategy that Google had devised around an year back or so.

All of us who are a part of the web 2.0 today would know the humble beginning that google had, how they demystified the web and made it a lot easier to browse and find data(yes the google search), how they went on to build a suit of applications around search and positioned themselves well in the world of web. Yes Google had positioned itself as the Good guy we all loved to go to when we felt terrified by the bad Guy - Microsoft (Because he made us pay for everything that he gave us, whereas Google gave it all free). It was merry time and Google was happy. Then came a swarm of good guys. Zoho gave the basic set off Office Apps on web for free, twitter became popular as another good guy as it promoted free speech, Zuckerberg bought our social lives online giving a thumping blow to the Google's own Orkut.

Google that was seen as THE GOOD GUY, became one among the good guys.

In addition to this Google landed itself on the wrong side of many antitrust cases. Dut to this not only did google had to differentiate itself from other good guys, it also had to prove that it was not bad after all. While all this was happening , the web world was slowly moving from Web 2.0 to Web 2.5 which I call as the era of social networking.
Google was loosing the ground because the web world had moved on from paradigm of SEARCH - which was its strength to the paradigm of SOCIAL NETWORKING - at which it had miserably failed.
People went to a search site when they didn't know something whereas they went to a social networking site when they didn't know what to do.

And the latter reason is a more compelling than the former. Search is like knowing something but social networking is like coming home and socialising. Given the restrains of socialising in current day world and socialising being the basic trait of human beings, social networking did catch on.

We can argue that the quest for knowledge is also a basic trait of human beings(but that was for the en-lighted ones, and for lesser mortal socialising was sufficient ;) ), and that is exactly what Facebook did well. Instead of you going in search of the information, it brought the information right into your profile. And what made it more convincing was that it was recommended by your friends.

So Facebook which started just as social networking site, started spreading to the whole web in the form of an ubiquitous like button, which anybody could embed into theirs site with a single line of code. When any of your friends clicked on a like button anywhere on the web it started coming on your facebook feeds. Instead of you going in search of information, information was delivered at your doorstep.

As facebook in specific and social networking in general started taking the centre stage of web, google was being criticised for not being aggressive enough on the social networking from, after the slow death of their Orkut and debacle of buzz. Google which had got it right in so many different fronts, seemed to have failed miserably at social networking. Many had written off google regarding this. But looks like (not the facebook like) Google has just got third time lucky this time. And may be google is lucky enough to get lucky at the right time. Though Google Plus is still in its nascent stage, it has already gathered enough user interest and seems to a straight away hit.

Ten Reasons why Google Plus will be a hit :

1. Plus one introduced four months before Google Plus : Though it seemed like a lame response to facebook's Like button and many called it "too little and too late", google got it right. It was like testing the waters for before bringing on Google Plus. However even Plus One on its own had one main advantage over Like button. To like something people had visit a site and then like it. But with google's Plus One, people could Plus one something on search without even going to the site. So Plus one could generate enough activity even before the websites embraced them completely.
2. Google Plus was a big surprise : Though google was continuously being criticised for not pursuing the social networking path more aggressively, it had always maintained its magical silence. There was no news or even a speculation that google has been working on something social until Google Plus was released. So the surprise factor and initial interest around Google Plus went in favour of Google. The limited Google Plus invitations made it more exclusive and added to the fervor.

3. The Ubercool UI and UX : With google mail and other apps google gave a boost to the AJAX enabled functionality and made the UI more intuitive. One thing I loved the most was, google never gave me a "could not connect to host" on gmail when the net connection was lost in between. And Ajax status updates were always much better than the bulky page refreshes.

With Google+ it is now
  1. Pushing the mouse-over functionalities and hence reducing the number of clicks, reducing time and making it more intuitive.
  2. A fresh life to drag and drop functionality. Isn't it more easier to drag drop your friends into circles.
  3. Did I just mention Circles? Yes circles will be the next big thing. Isn't the web full of squares and rectangles. Well we have some rounded corners . Though it is better than the sharp edged squares and rectangles., it is no match to the aesthetic circles. With Google+ the time for circles on web has arrived. Remember the quote "Life goes in circles"
4. Its all about privacy Dear : Privacy Matters. Yes it does. With so many social networking sites around and most of them with the same feature sets, I have always maintained that "He who gets his privacy settings right, gets to rule the social networking market". Google Plus got it right this time. The drag  & drop functionality with  circles has made privacy settings in Google+  a breeze after the torture that Facebook subjected us to.

5. The contract with Twitter ends : The updates from twitter on Google search pages stopped showing the day(or around that), when Google+ was introduced. If we think of it as just as coincidence, we are being too optimistic. Very soon google might probably show the public updates from the Google Plus user profiles. Google must just make sure that privacy concerns are handled well and users have full information that their updates will be available on the net for all.

6. Google+ brings the best of twitter and facebook : This has been the most popular reason and is being discussed heavily on the net. But let me tell you how.

Twitter is open community : Whatever you post is visible to all and they can follow you without your consent. (Though twitter has other settings, it is still perceived as mentioned)

Facebook is a closed community : You raise a friend request and they should accept it and only then their updates are visible to you.

Google+ combines these two :
  • You can follow anybody without their consent. Then you will get only the public posts that are posted(Twitter)
  • If that person adds you to his circles, then you will updated whenever he shares information that is private to that circle.(Like Facebook but better than that)
Basically Google identified that people like to share different things with different people. And made this selective sharing possible in a user-friendly way.

7. Social networking updates right in your mail(google account) : Yourname+ at the beginning of Google bar signifies the importance that Google is giving to Google+. And the Google+ updates in the google bar is the best move. It drives more user activity. If Google is smart enough it should blur the difference between Google account and Google+

8. Google author tag and Google profile : Google has announced the support of the authorship markup, enabling content sites to help identify their authors on the site and across the web. Read more here. Well Go..ogle is trying to replace the techcrunch profile linking on the sites to Google profiles. And since this Google profile is now same as the Google+ profile, it means more activity on Google+ . Google profile has been around for long, but few updated and very few checked others profiles. Now with Google+ more people will update their profiles, even if they don't use Google+ because they know that others will view their profile and many may even follow it (I mean add to their circles).

9. Google+ will be the new DNA for Google : If not for any other reason, this should be the reason Google should invest more resources and money in Google+. The more popular Google+ becomes, more the number of users will start using other Google Apps.

Author : Gokul NK