Last week Google revealed its own version of the Facebook “like button” known as Google +1 or the “+1 button”. The +1 button has received a lot of attention lately but many bloggers, including myself, are skeptical.
For a more detailed discussion, please visit Shum’s podcast to listen to our discussion on the topic
Over the years Google has constantly been working on improvements on its pride-and-joy – the search algorithm. For years Google has collected data from click-throughs in order to get a fix on what users liked and what they did not; so it makes sense for them to pursue a means of eliciting direct feedback from users. The problem is, like Google Wave, which lived a short life, Google +1 may be headed for the same fate.
I do not want to get ahead of myself by predicting its downfall before it has even fully launched but I do have a number of reservations about the service that Google will have to overcome if they are to succeed:
- Google does search well – social, not so much
Google has tried to launch social-oriented services in the past, such as Google Wave, that were not well received. With sites like Facebook and Twitter already on the scene with hundreds of millions of users, it will be hard to convince people to port their social networks/contacts over in order to fully benefit from +1
- Lack of connections
Building off the previous point, many users like myself make good use of Google’s services. However, the vast majority of our contacts may not reside within Google’s services. I, for one, use MANY of Google’s services and yet have only a handful of contacts on Gmail, for example. Google will need to make it very easy to port contacts over and and more importantly, give them a reason to do so (it is not enough to move over to a new social network yourself – to fully benefit from it, you need to convince ALL your friends to do the same)
- The heat is coming
And by heat I mean a Facebook/Microsoft Bing alliance. Google’s golden egg is its search engine which they are trying to improve with social search, however, they would have been in a great position to align with a powerful social network like Facebook. Instead, they have decided to compete with Facebook’s “like button”. They may soon be in over their heads if rumours are true that Facebook will offer search powered by Bing.
- Language interaction
Interestingly, Google has supposedly chosen +1 as its branding so that it can be easily ported to other communities that speak different languages. Brilliant, except that it lacks the universal language integration of, say, the word “like”. When someone decides to “like” a link, it makes sense – it’s plain English. When someone +1’s something – it is much more awkward to say. “Hey Bob, I sooo +1’d that link you posted” . . . Going a step beyond that, one of Google’s claims to fame is that fact that its brand name has become a verb. You don’t search something on Google, you Google it! This amazing branding will be nearly impossible to pull off with +1
In summary, I think Google is on the right track with +1 but instead decided to go it alone and compete with other giants like Facebook and Microsoft. I firmly believe they may have been better off to strike a deal. Facebook’s like buttons already permeate the internet, why should we all change now because Google says we should?
In the end, Google might be -1.
For more information, check out the Google System blog and please post any pertinent links or comments. Perhaps you disagree? I am always open for discussion.