Google+ and the Nitty-Gritty of Google’s Integrity

You turn your computer on, stare at the loading screen, put your password in, hit enter, and what is the first thing you open up? The web browser, I’m sure. After all, Internet has become such a central part of our lives that clicking on a web browser feels like the only logical reflex to follow, when the computer finally boots up.
Once the browser has loaded, you land on your homepage – the launchpad for your virtual escapade into the infinite world of the Internet, the place where boredom has no place, and you can be whomever you want to be, and do whatever you want to do, without any consequences whatsoever… (at least until FBI knocks on your door because you’ve been researching “how to make a bomb” or you don’t land that perfect job because of the risque pictures your “friends” posted on your Facebook’s profile). Yeah, the Internet is a wonderful place; a pure digital nirvana. But behind the Arcadian scenes great battles are fought between the titans for the supreme title of the No.1 website of the world wide web. The website that millions will embrace as their homepage which springs up on their screen every time they double-click their web browsers. And we know that the more time people spend on a website, the more money can be made on advertising displayed on it.

I am yet to find any reliable source on how many users use which websites as their homepage so for the sake of an argument lets assume that people, out of convenience, put their most commonly visited website as their homepages. If that is true, that means that Google, so far, is topping the charts with its most iconic search bar getting nearly a billion of unique visits every month coupled with (#2) and (#7), more than doubling that number at over 2 billion users (though I’m sure there is some overlap). The next search giant, Yahoo!, may be #3 on the Top 1000 Wesbites chart but it is still far behind with Google with only half of its followers. But there is one website, that is rapidly catching up with, and that is Facebook, with nearly 880 million unique monthly users and traffic that dwarfs any other website! Facebook not only creates more traffic but it even dethroned Google for a while last year in terms of userbase. In order for Google to keep their status of “the door to the Internet”, Google had to expand their services to include a direct competitor to Facebook, thus the birth of Google+. The goal is simple, to sway the Facebook users to spend more time on Google’s websites, which will keep the capital from advertising in Google’s pockets.

What Facebook recognized is that the fundamental role of the Internet is to discover new information and connect with others. Put the two together and you have a recipe for success. Internet is no longer the same place where people just go to find information for their own purposes, akin to the lonely scavenger hunt that search bar allows us for. We like to share the things we find and show others the stories that we deem interesting. Social websites like Facebook, Twitter, and others are all about the ability to broadcast yourself and your interests to the world and giving you a centralized place to see and hear what others have to share. Sure, Google allowed people to do pretty much the same but these same services were spread throughout different Google products. You had (and still have) Google news for news, Google reader for blogs, Gmail for email, yadi-yadi-ya – but nothing as integrated as Facebook where you can connect with friends or go on publicly. Prior to introduction of Google+ and the +1 button you would have to use email to share articles with friends, star an article on Reader or give thumbs up to a video on YouTube, chat using GChat, and share photos on Picasa. Unfortunately, not all of these services shared a common database of contacts complicating sharing even further.

My hopes for Google+ is that it will become Google’s new iconic landmark, the most comprehensive homepage ever, which would replace the aging, allowing users to discover, connect, and create from a single place. One service to rule them all, sort of like that magic ring with runic inscriptions on it, if you know what I mean. Then nothing will escape the evil eye of Google! Buahaha! And if you don’t like that, than feel free to embark on a journey to Mountain View to put an order for a takeout at the Data Liberation Front café.

Whether Google’s plans are evil or not, the truth is that people have been longing for better integration between Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Photos, etc even prior to Google+. It is exciting to see Google’s new prodigy grow to become the future leader among the older siblings, teaching them how to play nice together. We just witnessed Google+’s first baby steps with the addition of Hangouts button on YouTube, expanding the use of +1 button, and the introduction of Gmail people’s widget (I haven’t played with this feature yet). And as Google has repeatedly assured us, this is just the beginning.

Google has all the ingredients to create the finest homepage recipe ever. They have the most powerful search engine so you can easily find stuff. They have an amazing email service with an already integrated chat. Their powerful calendar is brilliant. And now Google+ that gives you another way to interact with people and share the things that excite you. As a bonus you get unlimited storage for your photos that you can spruce up online using Picnic and share them privately or publicly. There are also other services like Documents, and even though they are still no match for products like MS Office (or their new 365 counterpart) in terms of design flexibility when creating documents, they are a great collaborative tool. Those are just some of the multitude of Google Products that can be intertwined with Google+. It is a difficult task, if not impossible, but Google with its monetary and intellectual capital may just as well achieve their goal.

Over the next few weeks we will look at every Google product and the ways in which it can be integrated with Google+. There is no doubt that Google is very invested in their social network and they listen to our feedback so let us have a saying in the way Google+ evolves. Let us know which products would you like us to focus on first.

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