Thoughts on Google+

Via Gruber, an interesting post across the transom by MG Siegler about Google’s addition of Google+ results to all search results. Siegler in turn links to John Battelle’s thoughts on the matter:

Google hasn’t made peace with Facebook, and therefore is not crawling Facebook data…. Facebook, in turn, has not made most of what happens inside Facebook available to search engines. It’s a standoff, because neither company really knows how to value the other company’s partnership.

And it sucks for the web. The unwillingness of Facebook and Google to share a public commons when it comes to the intersection of search and social is corrosive to the connective tissue of our shared culture.

Personally, I have trouble seeing this as an antitrust issue so long as ease-of-posting to multiple social networks remains available. Most folks I know publish simultaneously to Facebook and Twitter, and will probably include Google+ once there’s enough critical mass there to make publishing to that site valuable. (Hasn’t much happened yet; aside from a few diehards, I’m still not getting a Google+ stream anywhere near as worth checking as what I get from the Big Two.) What makes the social networks viable is the personal content they publish, so as long as most people are cross-posting, then there’s no monopoly as everyone has access to data that they can republish with ads.

Call me in favor of Google’s move, because I’ve been waiting for Google+ to do something to make itself relevant. Right now it’s not; I’ll glance at Google+ every once in a while when the GoogleBar reminds me to, but it’s not yet a destination. Start making my content on Google+ appear in front of the people who’ve circled me, and suddenly I have a real incentive to be there–both for my own edification, and to stay on the radar of people in my network.

What makes the Big Two the Big Two? Facebook finally realized the dream of sixdegrees.com by hitting the critical mass that made it the place to be, and then used that goodwill by creating the biggest walled garden since AOL. Twitter realized that everyday chit-chat with interesting people had no analogue on the web and created it. In the US at least, everyone else is an also-ran (I’m still trying to figure out what LinkedIn is good for).

But what makes Google+ exciting is precisely the cross-application connections between data that no one else can provide. I wouldn’t mind seeing intelligent agents that alert me–when privacy permissions allow–that several of my contacts are attending the same event, or that a particular web page is getting buzz (so to speak) in Reader among my circles.

We have plenty of examples proving that crowdsourcing is one of the best ways of creating solid information by magic, without any extra effort on the part of the participants. My microcrowds are filled with some very smart cookies; Google+ has an opportunity to stand out by starting to aggregate what they’re doing and keeping me informed of it.

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