Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Google are proving time and time again that they simply do not understand social | !NVENT

Google Doesn’t Understand Social


It feels like we’ve been saying this over and over for years now, but Google are proving time and time again that they simply do not understand social.
When they purchased Dodgeball back in 2005, they were 4 years ahead of the global trend in location based services. By buying the market leaders, they had a huge opportunity to capitalise on and dominate the market before it emerged. What did they do with it? Discontinued the service, and released it’s creator, Dennis Crowley, to continue with a new project. A few years later he created Foursquare which is currently seeking funding at a valuation of over $500 million, whilst Dodgeball sits in the dusty Google cabinet of almosts.

A few years later, Google returned to the social market with their new collaboration service, Google Wave. It was announced to much excitement, being proclaimed as the future of web communication, and with beta invites being sold for up to $70. Eventually it was released, and the community all replied with a collaborative “huh?”. The UX was incredibly confusing, and the mass population had no idea how to use it. Whilst Wave had some interesting functionality, it didn’t solve any basic human needs, and was soon unbranded and released as an open source platform due to lack of interest.
Not one to give up, Google decided to take another attempt at social with Google Buzz. Buzz was a social messaging service that integrated into their existing communications platforms, and allowed people to share information and content easily. Seems like a useful tool on paper, but yet again, Google managed to screw it up. The launch of the product was completely over-shadowed by the inherent security issues, as well as it’s intrusive nature.
And now we come to the present day, where Google is preparing itself to hit the social market once more with their new service “+1″. Trying to emulate Bing’s partnership with Facebook’s Like button, Google decided to place a button with the same functionality on their search results. However, the UX has once again been thought through in a very sloppy way, and it seems destined to be another failed social opportunity for Google.
As it currently stands, Google are asking users to press the +1 button if they like the content being delivered. However, the call to action is placed before the web experience is even delivered, so there is no way for the user to know whether they like the site or not until they’ve left the site. At that point, Google have lost them. Do they really expect their users to find a site through Google, view the content, then head back to Google to press a button in case their friends search for the same thing in the future? It’s an absolutely ridiculously convoluted user journey, and one which is destined to fail unless it is re-imagined swiftly.
Google are one of the most logic focused companies in the world, and their company is built on intelligent algorithms which eliminate the need for social input. By relying on social data Google are either admitting their algorithms aren’t as intelligent as they claim, or they are damaging their service. It’s a fork in the road for the company, and rather than hedging their bets between the two routes, they need to commit to either an algorithmic or a social path if they wish to retain dominance in either.
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