Social Media

Is Google Forcing Users to Use Google+?




This is a question we have begun to hear more often. In fact, in relation to Google+ we hear three common questions;

What is Google+?

Is anybody using Google+?

Is Google trying to force me to use Google+?


So What is Google+?
Some have defined Google+ as Google’s way of competing with Facebook. They see it as a social network Google built in order to diminish the hold that Facebook has on people time spent online.  This may in fact be partially true. Here is how I see it.

Google+ is the new Google. Google, if it was invented today would be Google+.  Over ten years ago, Google became popular by organizing the web around information through search.  They expanded into a number of different services through maps, gmail, YouTube, and others that primarily revolve around organizing content on the web.  Whether it's your email, videos, photos, personal blog, or website, Google has set out to catalog and organize content on the web.  They have done this with huge success.  However, as social media has come on the scene over the last decade, we have begun moving past search as our first means of organizing.  Instead of being interested in organizing information around the most popular content or search result on the web, users have become more interested in content being organized by relationships and their own identity.  Users have shown a greater interest in search results relevant to their personal tastes, and that of their friends and family.  Search is now personal.

Google has shown that it has the audacity to reinvent itself. They see that the future of the web is social.  Not just a social network, but the entire internet that is connected by a layer of social media.  That is what is somewhat confusing about Google+. It is not simply a “channel” where you can go hang out.  Google+ is essentially your new Google identity. It is built into your gmail profile, of which hundreds of millions of users already had.  It is your YouTube profile or your Blogger profile, all built into a single online identity.  As you interact with the entire web, Google is giving you the option of cataloging your interests through the +1 button.  These interactions then become signals to Google about your preferences that influence your search results, as well as the search results of those in your personal network.  This occurs whether or not you ever go to Google+, fill out a profile, and begin creating status updates.

So, in essence, Google+ is your new Google identity which organizes the web around your personal preferences, and that of those in your personal network, in a “social” fashion.

Is anybody using Google+?
The answer to this would differ depending on how you define “use”.  If by “use” Google+ you mean creating status updates and commenting on others on, those number have not been reported.  However, there are roughly 250 million users as of the I/O conference earlier in July.  I do not think this is the only relevant metric.  YouTube alone has hundreds of millions of users.  They are all plugged into Google+ in one way or another.  So are all those who use Google search and gmail. Each has an opportunity to send signals to Google regarding their personal preferences, as well as affect the search results of those in their network.  This is the opportunity provided by Google+, that by participating through using +1s, creating status updates, and by broadening and interacting with your personal network, you can have a real effect on others use of Google search products.  Last week Google also announced that Google+ has 150 million monthly active users and 75 million daily users.

Is Google trying to force me to use Google+?
Again, this may seem like semantics.  I think in order to preserve their role as a leader on the web, Google is evolving their products to add a social layer to the web.  I do not think they can force you to use all of these new features, however, if you are a business or seeking to be a person of influence, participation is somewhat required if you want to become influential.  Your level of participation and influence is certainly up to you.

If the future of the web is social, we all must adapt.  It is to our own benefit.  A social layer connected to the web will help us to answer questions faster, discover our friends preferences, and help us to connect with those with similar interests more efficiently.  By connecting everything online through relationships, instead of popularity, Google is helping us to better organize our lives.

Is Facebook engaged in something similar?
Yes.  Facebook has a relationship with Bing (owned by Microsoft which also owns a small portion of Facebook).  Bing is also the search and maps partner for Facebook.  Bing has already began adjusting search results to reflect users interactions with the Like button.  Watch for this to continue to evolve.

The future is now.
So in other words, you cannot fight the future, it is already here.  Social search, Google+, and Facebook search are all here to stay.

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