Posts Tagged ‘google’

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or living in China, you would have stumbled upon Google’s latest venture: the Google+ project.

It’s funny how many forgive and forget when it comes to Google. One would expect the abysmal failure of Google Wave 2 years ago, stifling the public’s tolerance of giving any Google grown ‘social’ product another go. It seems though the leading search engine provider has succeeded in breaking its novice status with the creation and execution of Google+, now with 25m users and counting. Google’s best kept secret? Not anymore.

Having worked with online products for so long, I appreciate how difficult it is to nail an online platform that hails simplicity and sophistication at the same time. Add to this the already cluttered online community space that is dominated by Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn amongst others, it’s quite exciting to see Google+ take the lead in what I would label as social media’s next generation of platforms. Why I draw this conclusion boils down to a couple of factors:

Google+ gives ultimate control to the individual. Unlike Twitter and Facebook where the rights of sharing is dependent on the message recipient’s willingness to connect with the sharer, Google+ allows the end user to freely add Google+’ians into user groups and share messages based on their personalised circles of individuals. It’s asymmetrical in nature, and it’s just what social junkies are looking for.

Google+ evolves the equation of a sticky platform. Think of a restaurant that you regularly eat at. What makes you go back there? It’s a combination of things: the food, the service, the atmosphere, the people you dine with. I used to think that the community for social networks was the primary determinant of a user’s loyalty (the key reason that I gave Facebook another go despite being dubious about its utility in my life). It seems now that being a ‘regular’ in the longhaul also requires a continued investment in keeping features (equivalent to the restaurant’s atmosphere and menu) on the platform attractive. And what’s cool about Google+ is that you don’t need an online tutorial or help tips: the environment is predictable to the end user, the Google+ diet is easy to digest!

Since its launch we’ve seen tweaks in the Circles module and YouTube sharing, driven primarily by screening usage (which is not surprising with Google’s advanced web analytics capabilities) and listening to user’s feedback. Crowdsourcing is a cool way of learning more about users and ensuring users remain engaged on the network.

This approach breathes the importance of iterative development, the importance of being agile with managing a living and breathing platform as more information about your users and their behaviours surface.  Twitter started off with attractive features (the concept of ‘followers’ and @ mentions and RT or quotes) but responded too late to third party applications who offered more convenience in features such as shortened links and in line influence scores from Klout.

It’s great to be reminded that the social media space will never stop evolving and I’m pleased to see Google+ taking a decent leap in the right direction.

What I look forward to? I see a richer user experience across other Google web properties as a result of first hand insights from Google+ users (for example, improved relevancy on Google Search); more functionality on its mobile app, particularly for Android powered mobiles; further integration of video chat properties within its cool Hangout feature and a Google+ API.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s hard to miss the amount of technology coverage that’s been going around of late (for those who want a digest of happenings, tune in):

  1. The  saturated coverage on Google’s Nexus One, and its endless comparisons with the iPhone;
  2. The much hyped chatter about 3D appliances following the Avatar craze;
  3. The up and coming Tablets from Apple, HP and Google;
  4. The growing demand for geo-sensitive social networks, including Foursquare and Gowalla

It’s interesting to note that most of these concepts are not new. For example, Optus (an old employer flame of mine) launched Find a Friend (thx, @silkcharm) back in 2005 using the coordinates of your mobile against the Optus’ nearest base stations to approximate your location against your list of friends.

The Tablet concept has also been around for at least a decade. In fact, Microsoft pioneered the original ‘PC Tablet’ back in 2000, citing its key benefit as emulating the ‘simplicity of putting pen to paper’ whilst have the full Windows suite available. More details on the launch here.

Which begs the question, why the hype and imminent success of these same concepts now, in 2010?

Entertain these 2 reasons with me if you may:

1. It’s about being at the right place at the right time

Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell) explains this point well. The example of Bill Gates demonstrates the importance of being around at the right time to grab opportunities that would ultimately lead to success.

For us, we are more virtually connected, more tech savvy than ever. By the same token, technologies are much more ripe and proven than back in 2000.

Combining the market need and technological readiness brings the pent up demand for smart phones, the upcoming Tablets and more sophisticated networks.

2. It’s also about who or what you are

The likes of Apple and Google continue to amaze me, not only with their product diversification, but also with the amount of media coverage and consumer demand that comes about with any activity they choose to embark in.

Which brings me to the second point:  who you are has a large bearing on the success of your endeavours. The Zune series is a great example of this.  Our experiences tell us that anything from Microsoft is going to be complex to use, which in turn affects our purchasing decision. The personality of the company has a huge bearing on success as well.

Thanks for putting up with that rant, now over to you for your thoughts!

2009 has seen a cultural and technological shift for most individuals and companies, and I for one have experienced a genuine desire to connect with other like minded people online. Time poor has slowly become a thing of the past as the ease of talking to others has taken on an entirely new dimension.

Go on any news site or influential blog and you’ll find some good reflections on 2009.

The Age talks about the Year in Technology , another claims 2009 as the year of Social Networks, ZDNet captures the top 5 in a video wrap.

Some highlights for me were (extracted from my trusty Twitter stream):

1. The continued proliferation of smart phones, open developer’s market for the iPhone and the Google Android phone.

2. The launch of Bing. Whilst it hasn’t affected Google’s search engine market share, Google’s complacency has somewhat been challenged, a good example is Bing’s decision to launch real time search against Twitter, Wolfram Alpha and Facebook.

3. Related to Bing is Murdoch’s pay wall media message frenzy. This is sure to be crowned the biggest publicity blitz for 2009. Quality and uniqueness of content were the topics on debate until News threatened Google with content exclusivity for Bing – #FAIL for unfair play.

4. The emergence of geo-location apps in phones and social networks. Look out for more activity here. Cite: Foursquare and Gowalla

5. The growing demand for social ‘computing’ or CRM. I’ve certainly seen genuine interest for companies wishing to track and monitor relevant conversations, online. Another space to watch as apps like Chatter will only get better.

Embracing change is something we humans are getting much better at and I’m excited at the prospect that the web and its multi facets will become increasingly entrenched in our lifestyles, whether we like it or not!