Google+… What Is And What Could Have Been

Mitch JoelPosted by

Google+ is gone. Long live Google+.

That’s the buzz this week. Google+ – their attempt at an online social network is shuttering. It ain’t a pretty ending. Beyond the battering it took from Facebook’s growth and dominance, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google uncovered a bug in the code a while back that they did not disclose and, in doing so, the data of close to 500,000 users may have been compromised. Uch. Another hack. More data floating around the Web to be used in nefarious ways. Not good. So, the problem was swept under the carpet, and when brought to the public’s attention, Google quickly put the entire platform down. That’s a data and public relations nightmare right there (unfortunately). 

That’s when the armchair quarterbacks come out to play. Who was right? Who was wrong?

Bragging rights. That’s what this is all about for most of the pundits: did you call it correctly? Did you laugh when you heard about Google+ launching in a Facebook world? I took Google+ very seriously (from 2011: Co-dependency In The Age of Facebook). I was never an active user. I didn’t believe that it was a direct competitor to Facebook (everything is “with” not “instead of”). What I did believe (and still believe, to this day) is that Google had a tremendous opportunity. Not to compete with Facebook, but to use Google+ as the social platform that lies underneath (and runs through) all of Google’s efforts. From search, maps and YouTube to Gmail and beyond. Enabling and empowering these platforms with a unified social network not only makes good sense, it makes for good business. I guess the allure of trying to be a Facebook killer got to the Google+ product management team, and my dream for Google+ was not Google’s dream. 

What is and what could have been.

Right now, when do a search using Google Maps, you will notice a more personalized experience. Maybe places that you’ve visited before are highlighted, maybe places that you are going to be visiting (because it’s listed in your Google Calendar), etc… I don’t know about you, but I would love a much more “social” map experience. Don’t just show me the things that I have looked for, but use that awesome power of data and analytics that you have, Google to show me how my friends and connections maneuvered through the city that I am about to visit. Don’t just recommend YouTube videos to me based on my past habits and channel subscriptions, but leverage my social network to ensure that I see everything that my friends are enjoying too. This is (and could have been) the true dream of Google+. Who cares about a personal page where I can post stuff? Dump that. Make Google+ the social networking thread that runs through my Google experience. That’s what could have been. That’s what should have been.

I won’t miss Google+… but I will miss the potential of what Google+ could have been.