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Google Search Plus Your World – What it Really Means

So Google have just announced that search results will soon be influenced by your (Google Plus) social map.

What Does this Really Mean for You?

I think Google has the right strategy – but they have to manage it very, very carefully or they risk burning their brand.

The evolution of this “Web3.0″ is still going in the direction I described back in 2005, when I was thinking through a concept for a business networking platform.

So What’s Next for Google Search/Google Plus?

OK, we’re starting to see the rich web of relationships between people (and brands) influence search.

This will continue to expand, eventually to include all companies, brands, artists, products and content.

Expect Google’s fingers to find their way into more places.

This is About Your Data, not the Google Brand

Google’s greatest risk is to be perceived as a monopoly, which could generate a backlash like the anti-Microsoft sentiment of the 1990’s and 2000’s.

Notice how many websites you can log into now using your Google ID? This is one of the key areas.

The “+1″ Button is a Crude, Binary Measure of Approval

My vision had something more like a percentage score for the strength of relationships. Will Yes/No be sufficient to help me find the most relevant stuff? I think it may be.

Will we ever see a “negative/low rating” as something distinct from the lack of positive rating? I think it has value.

We’ll also see passive measures of approval, like spending time on a page, buying something etc. It’s all data, it all counts.

Circles… “One ring to rule them all?”

“Circles” signify a different kind of connection. “I relate to this person/brand” rather than “I like this.”

Just imagine if Google’s picture of all your real circles expands to include every interaction you have online (via web, mobile, social, e-commerce etc.).

(This will be the crux of everything for Google. “Power corrupts. Ultimate power corrupts absolutely.”)

Will Google Plus ever catch up with Facebook / LinkedIn / Match.com / Twitter / Reddit etc.?

This is the big question. Not everything Google does persists (Base, Wave etc. – but at least they’re not afraid to pull a failing project).

I think Google Plus will ultimately succeed if it can deliver a better experience than, say, Facebook. Facebook is suffering somewhat from the problem of how to filter the feed of content to its members.

Discounting the fact that users always complain when there’s any update to their favourite social interface, Facebook’s recent attempts to filter were not received warmly. Google Plus is somewhat lighter than Facebook, and – if it can get the balance & pace of convergence right – it could repeat the company’s late-1990s triumph, where Google trumped all the other search engines with an experience that just worked better.

Universal Convergence

The Holy Grail of all this is universal convergence of my data, across search / content / social. This is where Google Plus is aiming. Google has the technology and funds to get there.

As I mentioned above, universal log-in (one of my earliest applications in the Web3 vision) is coming, with Facebook and Twitter competing with Google for the rights to represent us to third-party sites. This could be a significant key to being able to observe behaviour passively.

The Trick Google has to pull off will be – can it find a Win-Win?

Can Google develop ways to access all your data, so that it gives YOU a better experience all-round, without seeming like it gains at anyone’s expense?

I believe, at a high level, this was actually the core of the Web2.0 economy – becoming a party host instead of a broadcaster.

Own the Platform

Microsoft made its money, not by selling PCs or applications, but by owning the platform.

Apple is massively profitable, not just through selling hardware, but by owning the application/music distribution platform.

Google is positioned near enough to the centre of all things, and its brand is generic enough, that it could become the new Web3.0 platform. If it can do that while maintaining “do no evil,” it will tap into a universe of possibilities.

About the author

Ben Hunt

Ben is the creator of Web Design From Scratch. He started writing articles about web design to kill time on a long train commute, and is now one of the most influential figures on the subject of effective web design. He has written three books and spoken at multiple conferences internationally.

The Londoneer - 3 years ago

That’s a very insightful article Ben, but you’ve missed a particular issue.

As you know it is trivially easy to find ‘celebrities’ on Google Plus – as a consequence they get lots of +1s, comments etc which gives them even more ‘googlejuice’, while the likes of unknowns like me, even if we’re producing quality content, don’t get a look in because our content is effectively buried by the plus publicity machine. With Google explicitly linking Google+ with search its even less likely that my material is discovered, the vicious circle continues to turn and on and on… I’m not sure I’d want to see the kind of internet that could create.

    Ben Hunt - 3 years ago

    Thanks Londoneer. There’s a bias built into nature, and capitalism, where those that have find it easier to get more. That’s the case for money, links, and attention.

    That’s why you see the same exponential graph everywhere. The top few actors/artists/musicians earn millions, while the majority struggle to get by.

    The top few finishers in Formula One races get the points, even though they may only be a few seconds quicker than the rest. In the hundred metres, a competitor who’s 0.3 seconds off the pace could go home without a medal.

    Google’s mission is (as it always has been) to discern VALUE in the links between people and content. That’s no different for how it interprets +1 than how it interprets links between web pages.

    It’s their constant study to optimise the way that value is interpreted.

    I think the key is to spot “minor-but-significant” trends. Millions may be interested in Justin Bieber right now, so how significant is that? What’s about to be big? What’s about to bubble?

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