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what does google want to be

So, it looks like Google is entering the comment system fray.

Never mind that it smacks of yet another “let’s copy Facebook” move. Nor that there are already excellent comment systems out there at the minute – the awesome Livefyre (used on this very blog), Disqus and IntenseDebate to name just some of the third-party options.

Google’s clearly taken a look at how Facebook Comments tie the user into Zuckerberg’s network, and wants a piece of that pie to go along with their recent abandonment of their “don’t be evil” mantra.

While it’ll no doubt attract its fans and users – especially the Google+ aficionados – I can’t help but feel the announcement is just another indication of why Google is struggling when it comes to social.

We Think We Want To Be…

One of the problems Google faces is it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. It was a lot easier in its early days, when search was the be all and end all of the Google equation.

But search only gets you so far (in Google’s case, being #1 means you kind of have nowhere else to go). Cue growth time.

Google Ads; PageRank; Google Earth; Blogger; YouTube; Feedburner; Google Voice; Gmail; Google Labs and more. From the small beginning of a search idea between two friends, Google became a fully-fledged multimedia company.

And it seems to be confusing them.

While Google was busy adding cool stuff to its repertoire, it wasn’t really making that cool stuff particularly sticky with the general public. Yes, they own the search space – but think of their real success stories, and they’re mostly external projects.

YouTube, they bought. Android, they bought. Google Earth, they bought. Google Voice, they bought. In fact, when you really think about it, the biggest success story for Google internally is its very first product.

And maybe that grinds them, when they see what Facebook has achieved since its inception back in the middle of the last decade.

  • It got the everyday user buy-in that most Google products haven’t (yet).
  • It made the web fun.
  • It appealed to all ages.
  • It attracted brands as well as consumers.
  • It’s continued to innovate internally.

Yet, perhaps more importantly, Facebook has managed to do all this without really needing the search strength of Google to achieve its popularity and success (just ask yourself how many other businesses don’t care about where they rank on Google’s algorithm).

Google PlusTo combat this, Google launched Google+, their own social network and the one that Google is pinning a lot of its hopes on in its battle with Facebook, especially after the abysmal failures of Buzz and Wave.

Early indications are good – 100 million users and reports of the network’s importance to search.

Although numbers aren’t everything – Google forces you to create a Google+ profile whenever you open a new Google product account, so that immediately adds to installed user base.

And when questioned recently at South by Southwest, the Google representative admitted that they class “active use” of Google+ something as miniscule as clicking the little alert button in your Gmail account, without even going through to the main Google+ site.

So take the numbers with a huge pinch of salt.

And now there’s the news of the Google comments system. Talk about throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the wall…

Too Many Google Pies

As i mentioned earlier, it’s easy to see why Google is going this route. With their recent “One Privacy” announcement, Google are looking to bake all their products into a more cohesive offering.

By doing this, they’ll (hopefully) make it such an integrated experience that you won’t need – or want – to use any other provide. From email to videos, business applications to smartphones, search, social networking and e-commerce, Google wants to be be the kingpin.

The problem is, they’re not doing a very good job of it so far.

If they really wanted to integrate, they’d already be making Google+ the centrepiece for their users, and a simple one at that. Unfortunately, that’s not coming across (currently) in the user experience.

Let’s say I wanted to create a promo video with customer testimonials, for example.

I should be able to grab images from my storefront on Google+ (the one they don’t really provide), collate them into a slideshow, add a voiceover, create a Hangout with some of my best customers, get testimonials, edit into the video, polish and then publish direct to YouTube.

Then I should be able to work in Google Docs to create a promo kit, call up my Circles of journalist friends, and send an invitation to the media kit as well as embedded video for them to watch. Voila, an instant interactive release.

Could this be on the way? Maybe – but if Google really wants Google+ to be truly adopted, they need to be doing this now. Instead, they’re just adding more things and, by doing so, adding to the problem.

Take the Google comments system. Let’s say that’s adopted as Google’s standard system – what happens to all the comments left on a Blogger blog post? Or a YouTube video? How do these get integrated – do they, or are they just cast aside, which seems to be Google’s usual way (just look at Picnik).

And the problem when you can’t merge old platforms or designs with new ones doesn’t always go over well (just ask YouTue users who got pissed at that channel’s makeover, and how it messed up their feeds).

One World or One Success at a Time?

There’s no doubt Google has the resources to take on Facebook and other platforms and businesses they want to compete with. Their Android platform is going head-to-head with the Apple machine and doing very well for itself.

But social seems to escape them, for some reason. Do we really need another comments system, even one that’s baked into Google’s core products? Will that be enough to see Facebook users – or at least the ones used to using their comments system – add Google+ to their repertoire?

Despite their early success, the jury’s still out on Google+ in general, and what Google actually wants to be as a company.

The latest comment news doesn’t really answer any questions; instead, it just poses more. And no matter what company you are, get too many users asking too many questions about who you really are, and that’s never a good thing…

Your thoughts? Is Google over-extending itself, or simply laying the bricks for an unassailable foundation?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown is partner at Bonsai Interactive Marketing, a full service agency offering integrated, social media and mobile marketing solutions. He is also founder of the 12for12k Challenge, a social media-led charity initiative connecting globally and helping locally.


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