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Tom Anderson: Google+ makes Google a better, more integrated set of services (plus.google.com)
152 points by genericone on July 2, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 63 comments



Most businesses can't "die" suddenly. It's very hard to turn a $850,000,000 business into a $35,000,000 in just a couple of years, unless something truly catastrophic or industry-changing occurs.

The exception to this rule is social internet companies. Social companies are built in a day and can die in a day - we've seen it happen again and again, and Facebook's scale is no protection.

To beat Verizon, you need a network. To beat Google, you need search technology, data, and great engineers. To beat a car company, you need some factories.

But to beat Zuckerburg, all you need it timing and a good strategy, and equivalent engineers. And in this case, Google seems credible on all fronts.

This is the first serious threat to Facebook's existence.


I think unseating Facebook is much harder than you think. Not impossible, but very hard.

I'll make a friendly $100 wager with you that Google will not have more active users on Google+ than Facebook has -- as reported by each company, a reputable publication, or measured by a public analytics firm -- 5 years from now.


I'd put you on the losing end of those odds.

Google's key to driving adoption is going to be integration of all of their services into Google+, which means that they have very natural and robust funnels for acquiring a userbase, so long as their tools are integrated properly.

Given the money that Google is pouring into this, and the incentive structure for engineers and teams at Google, i have no doubt that they will come up with clever ways to make their tools more social.


'Social' is the new 'cloud' buzzword.

What does it mean to have social products? To tap into a users social network? That is what Facebook offers to any company that wants, and that is why 2/3rds of websites now have a Like and Facebook Connect button on them, it is very easy for any service to attempt the social route by tapping into the thing that only Facebook so far has, the social network.

Google cant engineer a social network using code, a social network requires specific steps to be carried out in perfect order, it cant be done overnight, you need to build smaller networks and connect them to larger networks as time progresses. It takes a long time, years even.

Reddit is social, hackernews is social. None of them have what Facebook has, real world information about living people and their relationships. Here on HN I could have 5 or 6 accounts and no-one would notice, HN, reddit and any other "social" product does not have relationships between humans. Google mail is close to a social network, except the fact that email is mostly used for business and so is most suited for something like LinkedIn, I personally have more companies mailing me than my friends. If I tomorrow made a new google mail account and began using it instead of my old one, would google be able to tell? Facebook for sure would.


> 'Social' is the new 'cloud' buzzword.

New? What rock have you been hiding under?


Wait, why does Google have to do what Facebook has done to have a successful social platform?

Facebook's goal is to supposedly map out all real world social connections, and i would first say that such a goal is a pipe dream, and second that if you judge facebook by that criteria, that almost all services will fail to meet it.


I'll wager you that Facebook may have more active users, but Google+ will have more active users and perhaps more activity.

I'm betting that Google+ will get more than just the early adopters.


do it here: http://longbets.org/


I'll take some of that action, if we can stipulate that the particular service that beats them might not be called "Google+." Google's style is to zero in with artillery strikes rather than an all-out nuclear attack. Every time they reload and fire a new volley, they get a little closer to the target. Orkut, Buzz, Wave, and now Plus.


I think that Google+ may have a chance.

That said, building a business is not just about a simple CRUD application. There is a LOT more that goes into Facebook and its adaption.

There is even more that went into its timing and filling a void that existed in the market. Zuch didn't have many engineers at first, he just found a void and filled it.

I think that there is an opportunity with Circles for G+ to fill a new void, but will it be enough? All the research in the world can't tell you. Only time will tell.


You're papering over some things here to make your point. Like the fact that "equivalent engineers" is an expensive proposition. And data centers cost as much as factories.

In fact, I'd say it's a lot easier to build another Tesla -- who moved into a shuttered NUMI factory -- than another Facebook. It's a lot easier and cheaper to hire machinists, fabricators, welders, millwrights and assembly workers than it is to hire developers. And there's no network effects to selling your product.

Facebook began earning the mindshare of people outside college campuses 7 years ago. Hardly a day. And you say "sical internet companies" as if Facebook can be compared to other social networks. Truth is, facebook has market penetration (in mindshare and daily use) unmatched in internet history outside of Google (and Amazon I suppose).

I think that G+ will be successful. But i think it'll be successful alongside Facebook, and that Facebook will be a strong, profitable, influential company for a long time to come. And that Facebook isn't nearly as easily broken as you claim: In fact, I think there's only one company capable of really threatening it, and that is of course the company that is doing just that with G+.


Also a user base needs to be generated very quickly as the people are what makes the site worth using.


To beat Facebook, you also need data centers.


To beat Zuckerberg, you need Zuckerberg+.


Thus far, I've only heard industry insiders and participants praise Google+.

In technical fields, like medicine, or even computer science research, I'd pay close attention to such commenters.

But a product like Google+ was made for the masses. Just like Google.com was. Just like Facebook was.

So until my non-tech friends start praising Google+ as if it's a must-see movie, or a song I have to hear, or a restaurant I have to try, I'm discounting these views.

I'm not saying Google+ won't be successful. I'm just saying that the people who are saying it's going to be The Next Big Thing aren't the people who make The Next Big Thing, The Next Big Thing.


It's been a few days. Today I showed it to a semi-techie female friend and she loved it. Couldn't wait to send her an invite.

But the thing about "normal" people is that they just don't get that excited about joining any new site in general. They usually join them through peer pressure and after they start hearing about it on TV, or in other such common places.

So yeah give it time to grow naturally, the same way Facebook or Twitter grew. Don't expect all your non-techie friends to be on Google+ a month after it launched. Some will join, others won't (for now).


Totally. While it's true that getting praises from Andy the accountant and Bella the homecoming queen is much more meaningful than praises from Chris the programmer, it's just a matter of fact that attracting Andy and Bella in the early days is close to impossible. Andy and Bella just don't care about any new social network at all. And some of them have heavily invested in enriching their Facebook experience that they would think of G+ as a threat.

Perhaps more importantly, techies can have fun by themselves. They would play with Circles, follow tech celebs, tweak around with Sparks, and love discussing random topics with strangers. Now suppose early adopters consist of Andies and Bellas, they would just sit and wait until somebody does something.

That said, at the end of the day, G+ will finally have to figure out how to get Andy and Bella in.


Well, considering that even if you were invited within a few hours of the product launch, you've still never been able to actually log on to Google+ and use it, I'm afraid it's not really possible for the unwashed masses to chime in at this point. Unless you want them to talk about how great the screenshots look.


Uh, not true.

I am not inside of Google, and multiple people in my social network who are also not in Google have been using Google+ in the last few days. The product has been very usable.


The product for me, and for the vast majority of every human who has ever tried to use it, consists of a page saying:

"Already invited? We've temporarily exceeded our capacity. Please try again soon."


The majority of people I personally know who tried, got in.

But try again. You never know when you'll get in. (A birdy suggested that your odds are pretty good now...)


Good point.

But I think that only confirms my point. Google should put it in the hands of the masses, and not industry insiders (though perhaps a closed network of the masses, such as a core group of Oprah's followers).

It needs to be careful not to make Google+ an engineering project for employees, and instead a great consumer product.

For what it's worth, I've been using it for the last couple of days, and I don't particularly like it.

I wrote a few reasons why I don't here (see the update part at the end): http://www.chipsandguac.com/thoughts/googlesocial.html


I think Google is the only big company where every major new product is met with great enthusiasm in the tech people (bar a few anti-Google fanboys and journalists). Probably my memory fails me, but that is how I recall every major launch by Google.

Also a minor quibble- did any one else notice that if you make more than a few circles, you get multiple scrollbars and thing becomes less pretty and usable.


I think the opposite has generally been true for Google's more social products. Google Buzz went down in flames fairly quickly. Knol was widely perceived to be a failure. Orkut did not receive a positive reception in the US.

The generally accepted version of Google's history with social products is summed up well in this recent AdWeek article:

Has Google Learned From Social Failure? Why Google+ might succeed where Buzz failed http://www.adweek.com/news/technology/has-google-learned-soc...


Yeah, I agree. I meant tech people generally fawn about every new Google offering. Compare that with Apple, and the reaction to iPod or iPad- meh.

More generally I meant that both tech people and Google suffer from the same blindness.


I agree totally. Of interest I put on my facebook status I am in Google+ and can invite people in, out of 300 people 7 asked. Make of that what you will.


That's because Google+ has only been released to industry insiders and participants, if I remember correctly.


Nah. I got my invite from someone outside of the industry. She's a gmail user; I'd reckon that Google is (unlike many in the industry) smart enough to send their invites based on user data and not techie self-obsession.


But non-tech people can't do that yet, they don't have invites. Or-in the rare case that they do have one-their friends don't so they can't still comment.


Google+ does make everything fit in so well.

1) Picasa, just received a shot in the arm. Integrating it with Google+, would definitely see a surge in its adoption. Also, since people are going to use it anyways, they might seriously consider backing up all their images to Picasa. Fits right in with the Google's cloud philosophy.

2) Huddle - This is Google Talk for mobile done the right way. Given that iOS app is on the way and hopefully a Blackberry version, this can take on the new iOS messages and I dare say, the blackberry messenger.

3) Google has got the integration of notifications right, always there and yet very subtle. The top bar redesign makes sense now. With Buzz, there was a feeling of the service forced down on, in your gmail account. But, with Google+, the service notification are everywhere. web, images, books, news, g+ and yet the users do not seem to mind. Integrated the right way.

4) It has the potential to be The network. Facebook, might be a serious social network, but no is really going to use the FB email as the primary email address or as the one for formal usage. Google+ covers that. It can be your formal network; the one for friends; your primary photo service and more.

5) It would be killing, if they would Hangout a.k.a. group video chat would make its way onto the mobile apps.

This might seem positively biased, well, I do love Google.


I've been wondering lately if Google killed Wave prematurely. If they'd polished the interface a bit more, Google+ notifications would've solved the problem of updates. They could also have dropped bot and widget support into Huddle. Imagine a robot that could parse a "what's for lunch" comment into a sort of multi-user UrbanSpoon widget with voting/vetos/suggestions/etc.


Notice how people are starting to use Google+ as blog posts? It even looks like a blog post. If only the URL's looked a little bit better, it would be perfect.

And I agree with him. So far I love Google's unifying strategy, not only through deeper integration but through having similar, more streamlined design as well. And I feel this is just the beginning. I think we'll see a lot more of it this year.


I thought of using it as a blog, but the fact that the "posts" are in the same stream as the "tweets" and generally everything else makes it less useful than a dedicated blog. It could definitely replace tumblr, though.


Maybe it could replace Tumblr for you, but my impression of them is that they're building a platform for "creative" people... I don't think Google will touch that anytime soon.


Notice how people are starting to use Google+ as blog posts? It even looks like a blog post. If only the URL's looked a little bit better, it would be perfect.

I just did that, then found that "public" didn't really mean public; the post was still only visible to people with Google+ accounts. Oh well. I then copied over to my actual blog. But I would like to have a true public option even if it only meant read-only of such posts.


I don't have a Google+ account and it's visible to me.


Very interesting. Whatever link I initially grabbed to test in another browser gave me a page that said a Google+ account was needed.

But just now I looked at the post and noticed a dropdown-arrow next to it which revealed an option to get a link. That link is indeed publicly visible. Also insanely long and ugly, but whatever, it works.


I think you just have to be logged into Gmail or another Google account to see it.


Maybe that's because the service itself is not public yet. It's still in private mode.


I think Tom is pretty mature about MS being outcompeted by the other social networking sites. That's quite pleasing to see.

I feel that inevitably, I will somehow end up using Google+, despite my lack of need (or want) for it at the moment, though.


I must say, Google's decision to make Google+ invite only was puzzling at first but its quite obvious now isn't it?

It's much like how Facebook grew by restricting its service only to the top schools. This gained more hype for them as people saw that the 'elite' were using facebook and loving it.

Now we have personal invites to those who have a strong voice in the tech industry generating lots of good publicity for them. I'm not saying your a Silicon Valley elite if you have google+ account. But I think that the decision to keep google+ a private was more marketing, then a technical decision.


No, it's very clear why Google+ is invite only. Google+ is in field test. It needed to be tested publicly in order to start really getting a good understanding of what users are doing and what the scaling problems are. There are already a bunch of things that are essentially getting hotfixes in < 1 week.

The only reason that Google+ was announced was that this process couldn't have been done in secret. I'm sure if there was a way to have got everyone in at the same time, they'd have done it.


Hmm perhaps, but were google+ invites completely random? If so, then I probably am wrong and it truly was a technical field test with no marketing gimmicks.

Either way, having a closed invitation has genuinely made me more interested in the product.


Invites were not random. Google chose those to invite.


Would you happen to know how they chose? I am just curious.


I work at Google. An invite form was sent to employees prior to launch.


Okay, thanks.

What about non-Googlers? I feel like there would have to be some sort of algorithm that did it for you, what with how many people use Googles' services.


I found many bugs and lack of features, for example, there is no advance search, you can only search by names, not company or place or gender?

Have not figured out how to send messages to my friends, or do I have to share something only with them?

The "Limited"/Public link to view who you shared something with is kind of hidden, would be nice to see which circles a share is visible without clicking something.

There is actually not very much I can do right now. I click on cirlces, yeah it is a nice interface. A lot of my friends dont seem to understand how to share content with me even after they added me to a circle. Not much happens at all.


>Have not figured out how to send messages to my friends, or do I have to share something only with them?

Yeah, I think that's how it works. There's also a chat box on the left, which could be used for similar purposes.


I was thinking something similar to this last night. Google+ unifies the product set. Even the new Google mobile web is unified and easier to get around now. I can see it pulling me into products that I don't really use much just because it's more convenient.


I like the new dark bar at the top. It feels like an application now ;p I don't know why it just feels more integrated to me just for that. It's not much different then the previous bar they had but whatever I guess it makes me think of the windows start bar.


I find myself spending a lot of time in Google+ and eventually running out of content that I can see from my friends or even incoming shares. I want to discover new content and new people in Google+ the same way I discover it on Twitter.

So I hope Google will make the search bar work for content shared within Google+ as well, not just for people. Doing this would get people to spend even more time on Google+, reading other people's opinions or discovering their shares, and perhaps even meeting them through it.

I want to read more content from other people on Google+ and I can't right now because I don't really have a good way of finding them. I hope Google was already thinking of activating this, but they didn't because at launch there wouldn't have been much content anyway.

And before anyone starts saying I should use Sparks, it doesn't work the way I'm suggesting. Sparks is more like a Google search. What I'm asking for is searching within Google+ for shares and people, just like on Twitter.


You will hear nothing about Google+ a year from now. You heard it here... well, probably not first, but you heard it here.


In meatspace conversation I had Eliezer make the prediction concrete in scope and give it a number.

From one year after the date of the parent comment Eliezer expects that Google+ will not appear on Hacker News (except as a mistake, an obituary, an "It failed, I told you so!", etc). The probability Eliezer assigned to his prediction being correct: 55%.

I asked for the number with the intent of betting against him. At that figure I am not quite comfortable staking money. That is, I am not sufficiently confident that google+ has a significantly more than 45% chance of taking off. (Because I think that 45% chance of still being significant in a year is a good place to be, given the potential payoffs!)


That seems like an unwarranted level of confidence. Could you explain your reasoning?


He's using Reference Class Forecasting[1]. Without digging deep into Google+'s unique features, he's betting that it will do roughly what other web services in the class "Facebook competitor" and "Google-owned foray into social networking" have done in the past.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reference_class_forecasting


Eyup.


What probability would you put on this?


Just not interested in Google+. It was enough of a struggle to coax me onto Twitter and Facebook. I don't hear non-techies talking about Google+--it's all dedicated bloggers and people in the "Twittersphere" (ugh).

Not to mention that I heard all sorts of revolutionary praise for Wave when it was released.


The thing that is hooking me in Google+ is that it's just my google account. I don't really have to think about going there unlike the other services. And what killed Facebook for me was the UI. When it became too cluttered I just got tired of it. I hate battling with a website. Google+ UI seems more polished already that what Facebook has/had(I haven't used it seriously in the last 2 years. I sporadically log in and feel like I'm going through my email thrash. )


I've always thought Facebook's UI was mediocre at best, and slow. Google+ is beautiful and super fast. It's simply better in every way than Facebook.


Did non-techies hear about Facebook in the first 2 years of its existence? Techies know about it first because they are up to date to such things. Once people on radio and TV start talking about it, they'll know about it, too. That's how the mainstream works, otherwise it wouldn't be called mainstream anymore.


> Did non-techies hear about Facebook in the first 2 years of its existence?

Every single human attending Harvard in 2005 heard of thefacebook, and almost all of them were active users. This pattern continued as it expanded to other colleges, and eventually high schools. Facebook had a steady, population-representative mix of non-technical users from birth; it was never techies'-little-secret in the way that Twitter, Foursquare, and Quora were.

Warning: I work at Facebook now, but did not back then. This is just my second-hand understanding.




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