making sense of social

Google +1 – another great idea by Google engineers for Google engineers.

Google unveiled their recommendation service, +1, yesterday. It’s a simple enough system, you can essentially recommend search results in Google with the click of a button:

This service has the potential to be very useful, no doubt. But to how many people? You can only get recommendations from your network who also have (and use) a Google account. It’s only going to be useful to the 10% of the population who have both a Google account and friends with a Google account.  How many of your friends have a Google account that they are signed into when using Google? 90% of my friends don’t have an account. And of the 10% of my friends that do, only a fraction I want recommendations from.

And that’s the second point. The numbers of potential contacts that I can get recommendations from is low, but, they’re all pretty similar. They all have early adopter tendencies; they tend to be up on the latest trends etc. And most of them work in a similar industry to me, follow other similar people etc. Google tools are great, but they are used by a niche set of people. And getting recommendations from a group of people in that niche is only marginally more useful than from just one person in that niche.

The issue is Google never really scaled beyond search. A handle of people have accounts for YouTube, even fewer for Gmail. How many of your friends have a Google account that they are signed into when using Google. Now compare that to how many of your friends have a Facebook or Twitter account. Big difference.

For services like +1 to be useful they have to both be used by a large chunk of your network, and have different types of people from within your network recommending. Otherwise it just becomes noise. Google needs to encourage more users to sign up for accounts, and sadly, this service won’t do that. Google should be encouraging users to sign up when they download chrome, which people have been doing in their millions.

Having said all that, it is very reassuring to see Google launch a tool that I am actually considering using. What do you think? Will you use it?

Credit goes to @steevbishop for the snappy title



About the author

This post was written by Mike Phillips

Plannery type person with silly side projects. Not to be trusted.

Follow them on twitter: @imjustmike

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  1. Omar |

    Google should encourage users without google account to create one, even by linking to the facebook one, like you more frequently can do on several sites that are creating your account without having to fill in a form, but just by connecting to FB account and confirming it.
    The risk is that this new service will fail like many others launched in the past by google.
    The SideWiki for example…. is it still working…. how many users are providing contents there?
    I see +1 very similar to this.

  2. Nicholas Gill |

    Hi Mike
    Good thoughts as always. Like your point around Chrome – an obvious missed trick. Also, your reference to engineers is appropriate as it’s more clunky to understand and “get” than the ubiquitous “like” which is like, totally, like easy to get for the masses. The beauty of the web today is the frictionless nature; forcing me to use Google and share only with my Google people seems a retrograde step, no? And my personal experience of Google is exactly as you say; I use gmail but the nonsense around Buzz made me close my public profile. I’m a much more innate user of Facebook and Twitter because of the ease of use, large network and connectedness. And a bit like Apple vs PC, they just happen. With Google, it doesn’t. I have to work at it. And I don’t want to.
    Looking forward to you buying me lunch when you move to Gt Portland St

  3. Claire |

    It boggled my mind the other day when I found out a friend didn’t use gmail. “But.. what does she do?” I thought. Beyond email, Google’s just very much a log in for me that saves me re-entering my password a lot. It’s not a network, and I barely use the social features on things like reader as it is. I’ll have a look around, because it’s interesting to try new things, but I’m not sure this is revolutionary. That said, just by doing that I’m immediately going to have used it more than I use Facebook likes. The difference is this one requires explaining (I tuned out during the video – how do you view +1s?), whereas likes don’t.

    Good title work.

  4. Philip |

    It might be a good thing to see what my friends think, but I fear that we are moving towards a social case of incest sooner or later. No step is untracked, no choice undigested by the web, filtered and set upon a robot calculation of my past.
    Living in the past isn’t something you would want in live, too – would you?


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