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Google+'s Real Goal is Not to Kill Facebook, but to Force it to Open (marshallk.com)
124 points by tathagatadg on July 10, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 61 comments

And the reason they want social Open is to commoditize it. (Same strategy as Android.) Everything a commodity except for search is the perfect world for Google.

True. But to go a level deeper, Facebook is dangerous to Google, because: 1) The competitive advantage of AdSense ($10 billion in annualized revenue) is all about having better user profiles that can translate into better syndicated ads. Facebook will undoubtedly launch a competitor given the hires they have made. 2) The competitive advantage of AdWords ($20 billion in annualized revenue) is mostly about having better search results. Again driven by better user understanding.

Facebook has excellent information on users interests. As opposed to MySpace and Twitter, most of the data on Facebook is not crawlable. It's private data, which means that Google is completely locked out. Even if it was crawlable, the data is not as valuable since Google would have to try to interpret it, while Facebook knows what it really means.

Summary: Facebook is an existential threat to Google's two major lines of business AdSense and AdWords. This is going to be a huge drawn out battle. Sit back and enjoy the show.

Adsense revenue is driven by purchase intent. "LA to Chicago flights" is a goldmine for advertisers. "Johnny posts a lot of movie reviews so let's target him a Netflix ad" is nice but it's no where near the same as a direct search with intent to purchase.

And my assessment is that the article is wrong. Google+'s goal is absolutely to kill Facebook. With something this important to Google, they want to control it themselves. If not, there is always the chance that Facebook will screw them over at the next opportunity and the battle restarts.

I think you're both right. I'm sure they'd prefer to beat Facebook, but they probably consider that a stretch goal. However, forcing Facebook to open up would also be considered a victory, IMO.

Whatever Google is doing, it is doing Open.ly, so no comments.

If they integrate all Google products with Google+ tightly, it will cover entire web for most of the internet power users aka Geeks.

I think Google+ biggest bet right now is to spot, or introduce, the way people will live the web tomorrow. Changing it from Search to Discover.

And no, it can't relay completely on our friend's interests (à la Facebook) cause they're their interests not ours.

We'll probably stick much and much more to our beloved communities (topics, not friends) and start every web-related activity from there. That's something Google can't let Facebook win on.

Everybody wanna be a Google+ expert

How is this different from say, every third Hacker News article?

It's not, but that's another problem.

Or comment for that matter.

Exactly; it's been around for two weeks and people who want to believe in what they know are testing out the waters with their theories on how Plus crystalizes the social networking landscape. Truth be told, it's an immature platform with no API, nobody is really using it for more than posting their thoughts about it and the developers at Google don't even know how it will turn out.

I would strongly suggest to tech journos that they hold back on making predictions until normals start using it.

Very true; if I look at my Stream right now, it's probably 95% the equivalent of people saying "tap! tap! is this thing on?"

Obviously the point of a social network is the network effect, but there are some pretty basic capabilities missing from G+ that would limit its usefulness even if it had the critical mass of users already: no events and no photo tagging. And no poking ;-)

Honestly, it looks like they made a list of current Facebook/LinkedIn functionality, dropped the childish annoyances, implemented groupings and are in the process of tying together their other services to fill the gaps that they need not build into this first version of the platform. Like ahh points out, Picasa will have tagging, I'd assume your Google calendar will provide event coordinating at some point in the future and Zynga will provide entertainment to those whose streams don't get a lot of traffic.

How is Google+ open now? Can I be 'social across networks' with Google+ now?

Google accounts > data liberation

You can export all of your google+ et al data and import it elsewhere (including your social graph).

What other social networking service can I import it into? (I'm pretty sure I can't import it to Facebook)

None yet, but that's hardly the point, it hasn't been possible before.


Don't use that extension its a malware. Please read this thread at reddit. http://www.reddit.com/r/technology/comments/ikymu

g+ api is coming .. and you can still post youtube videos on fb.

Google Plus's UI is still way behind Facebook.

It would be a lot easier for Facebook to fix their holes with privacy(essentially copying Plus's Circles) than for Google to become more like Facebook.

We needed someone to put pressure on facebook to give more granular privacy control. To the extent that Plus pushes Facebook in that direction, I'm happy!

Plus' other features like Hangouts are nice but nothing really that I missed enough to drop Facebook. Privacy is one thing that I can see myself moving away from facebook for.

Any examples of how G+ is behind in UI?

I find the G+ interface orders of magnitude more pleasant to use than FB. It's not perfect, but it handles all of the same use cases that I used FB for, and does so in a simpler more sensible way.

They utilize buttons with three different colors: green, blue and red.

The stream is a lot more cluttered than Facebook. As an example, this is what I see next to a name in the stream:

Fname Lname - 4:17 PM - Mobile - Public

Compared to Facebook:

Fname Lname

There are lots of such details that facebook has right--mostly because they have been around a lot longer. I am sure Google Plus will eventually get it right(facebook's very first design really sucked, too).

Another example: when someone posts a picture, it seems to appear pretty big versus Facebook. It's an issue for me because most often I am not interested in pictures in my feed so a smaller version--like facebook--is preferred. If it looks like something of interest, I'll click on it.

When I do click on a picture in my stream, I am taken to a page with black background with all comments appearing on right in white/gray. It shows the non-standard nature of the Google UI which I personally dislike.

Facebook's UI may be boring. But most things I use a lot are boring and non-shiney.

All this comes from someone who really, really hates facebook for purposely holding back privacy features. I have pretty much resorted to not posting anything that may be offensive to a 5 year old kid.

> It's an issue for me because most often I am not interested in pictures in my feed so a smaller version--like facebook--is preferred.

I like the bigger pictures, cause I never was able to really use the tiny pictures on FB. But yea, I think if you are focusing on designing something so that users can easily skip over stuff something has gone horribly wrong.

> It would be a lot easier for Facebook to fix their holes with privacy(essentially copying Plus's Circles) than for Google to become more like Facebook.

Circles are friend lists, a feature Facebook has had for three years. Facebook's friend lists actually do a few things that circles currently don't: for instance, you can post to the union of a set of friend lists with specific people excluded.

They're de-emphasized in the UI because, despite many iterations on it, and a prompt to this day to add new friends to a list, the overwhelming majority of users have never created or used one. The functionality has been there for years, so it is surprising to me that Google is pushing an essentially failed Facebook feature as their big differentiator.

for instance, you can post to the union of a set of friend lists with specific people excluded.

Yup, I use this feature increasingly. I especially like the "Only Me" feature to share stuff I don't necessarily want to share with any of my friends but want to remember years down the line.

Facebook doesn't have circles. All Facebook relationships are built on a friend request, which Google+ doesn't have. You can't add strangers to a Facebook list; they are not the same thing.

I hate the fact that the relationships aren't 2 way on G+. Today my wife was going through people to add on G+, and she kept asking me, "Who is this person, it says they are friends with you." And I had no idea who they were. They were people that had added me to a circle, but I never added back.

Yet Google tells other people that we know each other. They make no differentiation between a 2 way relationship and a one way.

This looks like spam heaven to me.

Yeah, I guess it is google's attempt to make a go at twitter AND facebook. Unfortunately they are very likely to fail at both.

I actually dislike that about Google+. In the process of accommodating strangers, they have completely gone away from the concept of friending. May be this is why my Google+ stream is a lot more similar to my twitter than fb.

I think Circles makes more sense. How you see others is not necessarily how they see you.

A failed feature? Does it have less space than a nomad and no wifi? I'm sure it'll never catch on.

It could very easily be the case that Facebook's difficulty in popularizing friend lists was somehow path-dependent: e.g., FB users weren't using it from the beginning, so users had a different model in mind. We agree, I am not saying that circles are hopeless just because they've already been tried.

There seems to be a bogus meme propagating that Facebook doesn't have the functionality at all, though. You can do this stuff on Facebook if you're so inclined.

In this is truly Google's intention, then they are probably already working on an interoperability platform and even if Facebook wouldn't join them, new social networks would find it an incredibly compelling platform to join. Just think of all the marketing opportunities.

Well, Google certainly had a big hand in OpenSocial, and I'm guessing that will be a big part of their strategy going forward, in terms of letting people plug "apps" into G+.

As for sharing data, and interop, I'd be curious to know if any Googlers are part of the Federated Social Web working group: http://www.w3.org/2005/Incubator/federatedsocialweb/

I follow their mailing list, and I can't remember seeing a lot of posts from people who identified as being with Google.. but that doesn't mean they're not there. Or maybe Google just have their own plan and are going to do an end-run around the W3C initiative(s)?

I don't know about FSW, but there are some Googlers working with OStatus. And Google created PubSubHubbub, which is one of the core parts of the specification.

Btw, omg, I just checked and Google+ is already sorta-compatible with OStatus in the same way Buzz was, at least for my account... Atom, ActivityStreams, WebFinger and PubSubHubbub are already there. Salmon is missing but it's a complicated protocol (took weeks for me to implement it in Ruby), so it's understandable.

It means you can probably follow a Google+ user with StatusNET or Identi.ca! You can't mention or share data yet, but I hope it's coming...

For me, federation IS the future. Let's hope Facebook joins the party!

My argument is that facebook, twitter, myspace, g+ etc are web applications in search of a set of protocols. So that social network thingies become interoperable like IMAP and the like are.

I'm hoping that g+ is a step along this way, so I broadly want to agree with the article.

What about Google+ effect on Diaspora, or is the project already dead?

Just like Chrome.

Is Google+ itself open?

You can download your data and delete your account if you wish, I would classify that as being open in social networking terms.

That's the same as facebook then?

No. Google allows for exporting almost all data: feeds, email, contacts, calendar, etc. Check it out:


Vic Gundotra said that the APIs are coming but they are still deciding on features while in closed beta

The answer to this should be easy. What are the APIs exposed to Google developers.

In the MS antitrust case one of the important things that came out of it was that internal MS developers had access to the same set of APIs to Windows as 3rd party developers. That is, the CLR or Excel or Sharepoint, for example, don't have access to special APIs that no one else has access to.

Google should do the same. Anything that GMail, Search, Docs, have acess to, so should Facebook, Bing, and Twitter.

Microsoft only follows this rule for (NT) Windows, because it was judged to have a monopoly market share. Windows Phone 7.0 and 7.5 have lots of capability accessible only to built-in apps such as Bing, for example. I guess the analogy might make sense for Google search but not the nascent Google+.

(Restricting APIs isn't necessarily just about lock-in. It's a lot easier to change an API when it affects a few teams in the same company than when it affects untold numbers of external developers. Keeping it internal for a while gives them a chance to validate, and maybe iterate on, its design. Hence some internal APIs of WP7.0 were exposed in 7.5, etc.)

The reason it makes sense for G+ isn't because of antitrust concerns, but because it would be consistent with their "do no evil" mantra.

Regarding the second point, I have no problem with Google saying these are "beta" APIs, subject to change. Their services carry this same label. As a developer I'd much rather see their full API stack, with some marked as beta, rather than a much neutered API.

With that said, I'd like to see the same for WP too, but with Google they have set a public position of doing what is right even if it is against their corporate interests -- I want them to uphold it -- not just when it is a PR win.

This certainly doesn't appear to be google's current policy.

Facebook has an API that lets you read & write to it. If having an API is what makes a social network Open then Facebook is more Open than Google+.

I haven't run into the "walled garden" hedges with Google+, when I visit a profile or page, as someone who doesn't own an account at least. You can't say the same with Facebook.

Google+'s goal is to index user data for advertisers, the same as the goal of every other Google product, from the search engine to Gmail.

And same as facebook. Right?

I predict Google+ will die out in 1.5 years. It's inevitable. Too many tech people are saying it's the next big thing.. that's scary... I don't think a lotta tech geeks predicted Facebook would succeed.. Tech ppl don't know social.

Overheard in the park today, "google plus is like facebook but looks better". The same thing was said by non-tech people about facebook vs myspace.

Although, a lot of why it looks better is that there aren't any ad... I'd assume that this won't last.

That's true, but that's a competitive advantage that google can maintain for a long long time.

What you overheard in the park today is hardly evidence of some kind of trend. Google+ isn't even open to signups yet and is on an invite-only basis, used mostly by celebrity bloggers and other tech personalities who think every new social networking site is the greatest thing ever. Even the name "Google+" and the use of "+1" is too techie and mathematical for a lot of people.

The name Google+ is about as scary to non-mathmeticians as Facebook is to non-biologists.

I think "G+" stands a chance at being a memorable name. "Are you in G+?" sounds alrite.

I'd buy "tech people are poor predictors for social", but negative predictors?

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