Dec 14, 2011

[Google] Socializing Google Products


 When I first reviewed Google+ back in July, I stated that I didn't feel it was a Facebook-killer, nor was that the goal. Recent moves by Google to introduce Google+ related elements into their other products clearly supports this idea, and the whole thing fascinates me to some extent.

Okay, okay, it fascinates me a lot - you know I tend to go batty for almost anything that Google does.

At first some of the changes were subtle / gradual, like introducing the most basic of integration elements into Google Reader. To be fair, all I wanted was a way to share stuff like how we used to via the Google Buzz connection and they certainly delivered that. Now apart from using the integrated "+1" button to mark a post, there is now a dedicated Share button that launches a Google+ dialog box - and it still responds to the old SHIFT+S keyboard shortcut.

Blogger also started out a bit slow in the Google+ integration game - not that I was expecting all that much in this area given the relatively slow development of the platform until recently. First all we could was replace our Blogger profiles with our Google+ profile, which generally made sense given Google's efforts to associate more of our efforts with our true identities. But then they took a big step forward yesterday by introducing sharing options inside Blogger. At first this may not seem all that valuable, but to have a Google+ sharing dialog appear right after posting your latest entry is a pretty smart idea. It's simple, convenient and designed to help drive more content to Google+ before any other social network.

The "Google+" Project's Preview UI (...
Image via Wikipedia
And we can't forget how Google+ features have also come to Gmail in the form of integrating your circles among your Gmail groups and making it easier to add contacts into your existing Circles while reading emails. It makes sense to try and align the contact management properties of both products since the way we tend to organize our email contacts should generally mirror how we manage our Google+ Circles. Plus you can now get more up-to-date contact information for the people in you Address book as based on their Google+ input. All in all, a really good idea.

And there are all those other changes like the YouTube redesign, the new Google navigation bar and even the addition of Google+ mentions in your Google News feed.

All in all, we're seeing how Google+ is more than just a single social network trying to compete with the likes of Facebook but it's more of a collective effort to add more social tools to all Google products. In addition, this probably marks the first real effort to integrate the highly diverse Google suite of web application under  a single banner and trying to get all of them to speak a single language.

The core concept remains though - Google+ is a network built around Circles and more selective sharing options. For example they could have made it in such a way that a new Blogger post automatically gets shared with your contacts, but that would be counter to this philosophy. At every step of the process, they try to retain control of who you share your content with in your hands instead of making sharing with the world the norm or the default. And that in itself feels somewhat counter to Facebook's philosophy of trying to redefine privacy for us and trying to get us to share more than what we normally would with people who aren't exactly our closest friends.

All in all, I'm enjoying this evolution of Google's products to be even more useful for the way we live in this socially-charged internet age. Sure, you can always go back to being all cynical and suspicious of how all of this may just be Google's way of gathering more information to better target their advertising products. But at the same time, you can't argue how all these different services they've developed and continue to provide for free are amazingly useful and have changed the way we live.
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