Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I've spent the majority of my time opining on and noodling over Google+, how its feature set and user base are growing and what it all means vis-a-vis Facebook and their battle for our attention.
If you said I was caught up in the minutiae around Google+, you'd be right. That's why it's great to have industry gurus sit 30,000 feet above, take it all in and blast out the big picture view others of us miss from the ground. Gurus such as John Battelle come to mind.
With the always interesting Web 2.0 Summit 3 weeks out, Battelle Sept. 29 blogged about how Google+ has come to signify what Google is about today just as search came to signify what Google was about from its inception until 2009, when Android and Chrome entered the fray as major business beachheads.
Google has for a long time been about more than search. It was a loosely coupled thread of Web services couched around search, including Gmail, YouTube, Google Voice, etc. Search is just the most often used, bestl-known product.
Google power users use the other Google services with religious fervor. But the branding has gotten muddied as those other Web services grew in popularity. Seeing ads for Chrome is still strange to me. The product is so young, so fresh in my mind, despite its 6-week evolution cycle.
I and others have been treating Google+ as another spoke on the Google Big Wheel, circling the hub of search. Battelle believes that's changing.
"Larry Page is obsessed with Google+, and not just for its value as a competitor to Facebook. Rather, as I wrote earlier this month, Google+ is the digital mortar between all of Google's offerings, creating a new sense of what the brand *means*."
"So what is that meaning? I'd like to venture a guess: one seamless platform for extending and leveraging your life through technology. In short, Google = the operating system of your life."
His evidence? Try Google+ product manager Bradley Horowitz, who told Wired's Steven Levy:
"Google+ is Google itself. We're extending it across all that we do--search, ads, Chrome, Android, Maps, YouTube--so that each of those services contributes to our understanding of who you are."
One thing Battelle doesn't pay close attention to in that money quote is the part I bolded. What Horowitz described there is our digital identity, which explains why Google only wants people to use their real, legal names and not pseudonyms.
Then Google can become your concierge to the Web, helping you plan your life and other things. With that info, and some routing numbers, Google can become your bank.
The mass integration is starting, slowly but surely. We've all been seeing the Google+ integrations with those products. Those aren't one-off coincidences.
Google Docs works in Hangouts. Search is in Google+. There are tons! I'm going to do a big slideshow on them for an end of the year wrap.
Sounds great, right? I like the sound of it. The only problem is -- and I wouldn't be doing you a solid if I don't raise an "if" or a "but" here or there -- there is no guarantee Google+ will soar to the heights Google search or even YouTube or Gmail have.
Facebook's lead is huge, its network the signature social construct of the Web. Google had its shot and blew it. It should have had skin in the game three years ago ... but it didn't. Try to match Facebook and it will slingshot ahead or look back to move forward (see Timeline).
Google's best chance now is to hope it can integrate every single Google product worth its operating expenses -- think Android, Chrome, Maps, Search, YouTube and Gmail -- into Google+ and ensure it brings along the hundreds of millions of users of those services, and market the daylights out of it.
Make people skip Google.com and go directly to Google+ for Search, come to Google+ for their YouTube content and their Gmail, as well as their Google Voice inboxes and Hangouts group video chats. Bring AdWords into the mix, and advertise against user preferences.
Right now, Google+ is a spoke on the Google Big Wheel. It needs to replace Google Search as the hub, and then Google needs to market the hell out of it.
Where are the Google+ ads on TV? It's too early yet, but just wait. The branding will come. It must, or Google+, and Google, will languish, left behind by Facebook and others in this game of attention management.