Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Social Network - Build it Google, We will Come!

I recently read an article about Larry Page taking over as the CEO of Google and sending an internal memo to googlers about 25% cut in their bonuses if Google didn’t do well in social arena this year. I was disturbed a lot ever since I read that and wanted to pour out my thoughts about a dream social network from Google. Yes, I frankly think Google can still do much better than Facebook.

A headnote, this article is totally how i view a Google social network shall be made possible. I have tried to think of it as practically as possible. Some of it may sound silly/stupid for expert readers, so kindly bear with me.

Orkut was the trend setter! - What went wrong?

Orkut was the first and most famous "social network" of all time. It came during the period where the term "social network" was not really defined. Orkut gave that term a definition. And it was doing really well especially in places like India and Brazil. Ever since Facebook came in, Orkut started to lose.

I, personally, would say that the reason why Orkut never caught on was because Google tried to remain professional. They probably wanted to stick to the Google style of doing things and in the process forgot that people just wanted to have fun and party on in the social network unlike other Google services where professionalism kept people happy. The best example i would like to quote is, Orkut did not have scrap threading for a long time and that was available even for SMS by the time Orkut added that. Naturally, we don’t want to roam around in a blazer/suit 365x24x7. Facebook realized it and they just let people do whatever they wanted to do, literally no restrictions whatsoever.

Sign of Innovation - Google Wave

Google then launched wave and claimed that "it is simply going to change the way people communicate". Well, we know how true it is from the fact that wave has been axed by Google few months back and is now residing in its open source home of Apache.

Build it Google - We will come!

Again, the problem with Google Wave has been that it was difficult for a layman to understand and use it on a day-to-day basis. Even when wave was axed, not a single layman cared about it, only computer professionals cared since the underlying technology and protocols were really well built. Yet again, Google had failed to capitalize the wonderful technology they built by coping it up to what everyone actually wanted. In short, Google tried to remain professional with wave too.

Sign of Desperation - Google Buzz

Then came Google Buzz, supposedly the "Twitter killer". One major factor that i feel Google doesn’t realize when building social products is that, You cannot force people down their throats to go Social. Yes, I love Twitter and can’t live without it but at the same time I don’t want to read my tweets in my Gmail inbox.

Build it Google - We will come!

Similarly, Google Reader is one of the most wonderful software ever built. But with literally no connection whatsoever, Google decided to tie Buzz with Reader. This tie up lead to nothing but junk in both Reader and Buzz. And when people wanted to opt out of Buzz, it resulted in loss all their Reader follow list too. Making it opt-in is a really good vision by Google and at the same time they should also make sure that the opt-out is cleanly done.

What next? Social + Google = ??

So can Google ever surpass the mountain, that is Facebook, and succeed in social like they did in search? My answer is, yes they surely can. Sure Facebook has some 600 million users but Google is no poor lad when it comes to userbase too. Infact, Google is still a more prominent part of our life than Facebook is. Conduct a poll asking "Which of the following can’t we live without - Facebook or Google?" and i bet the winner will be Google.

Imagine a social network that revolves around all of Google’s services. Imagine a service that aggregates all of gmail, youtube, reader, maps, picasa, talk, news, voice and even orkut. Google, if you can build a rock solid service that does this and add your typical magical touch to it, then definitely you can climb the mount everest that is Facebook. Add to this the crazy, yet possible, thought of Google acquiring Twitter and integrating Buzz with it seamlessly. By recitifying all the mistakes that it did in the social arena in the past and building such a clean and fun service, it can surely overpower Facebook.

Google’s userbase is much more loyal when compared to that of Facebook. Google, as a company, with its policies is much closer to our hearts than Facebook is. Identify Facebook’s problems and fix it. Facebook’s main concerns today are spam and privacy. I can’t think of a product other than Gmail that can handle spam so near to perfection. Also, Google Talk has been an integral part of Gmail and Orkut for so many years now and not once we have seen any spam in it that can even be compared with the Facebook chat spam we have these days. Though Google have had their own share of controversies regarding privacy, they have somehow held on and been in the good books of their users when it came to privacy.

Build it Google - We will come!

Of course all this is not going to be an overnight affair, it is going to take lots of effort and time. Given that Google is investing so keenly on getting that top spot in the social arena, proper focus, being unprofessional and learning from the past are the key factors that will decide the fate of Google in the social arena. They can’t afford to flop anymore. This may be Google’s last chance to make an impact. By heart, i sincerely hope that Google can just snatch that number one spot in the social arena!

So, my message is short and simple: "Build it Google - We will come!".


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