This was my paper that I submitted to Google for the Associated Product Management job a while ago and it becomes really out of date, after they release Google+. I just publish it here for record. Some of them are implemented by Google already. And I am still not sure if they would go over all of these.
Improve Google +1 and Social Network
Google is now losing the social networking battle to Facebook’s hands. That is undeniable. Although Google try his best to improve and create many social platforms and integrate many social ideas, Google still fails. Look! Google Wave, it disappears after couple of months, Google Buzz, nobody hears about it in the media world now. And what happens to the next Google approach, Google +1.
I keep asking myself what Google + 1 is actually trying to do, is it a better search or a better social network or anything else. At the current state, here is what I see about Google + 1.
- It is actually not a bookmark or read it later service like the way Delicious works.
- It is not about sharing when one user likes the page, none of his friends may know.
- It is not creating any connections or interactions between users.
- Does it bring more benefits to Google rather than to users with the machine learning algorithms?
I don’t think that in the general strategy, Google integrates +1 button for the machine learning algorithm. It already keeps track of what users click, what users see and what users behave when they do search. The +1 button may help a little bit over the algorithms but not much. So, I believe that Google does this for social networking efforts and to beat Facebook and Twitter.
In terms of social networking, my biggest question for Google + 1 is: how on earth, does a user want to click the +1 button? Look at the Like button of Facebook, I think that button is so successful because everybody wants to share, wants to let people know that they like this page. This acts as a virtual award for them. “Look, friends! I have this page for many of you”. Google +1 needs something like this. The content is created by users and needs to provide to users real or virtual benefits.
In brief, here are some ways or problems I think Google has to do to improve +1:
- Attract and give users awards for their efforts
- Attract 3rd party providers to integrate +1 button into their website
- Boost up Google Buzz and willing to cooperate with other services.
- Identify the market niche in social networking that Google can come in.
Social – Attract and give users awards
The last time I tested the Google +1, I cannot see any of my friends +1, and only a few from strangers. Here is the problem. In social, we have 2 concepts of friends sourcing and crowdsourcing. However, the friends’ sourcing is always more important than the crowdsourcing. The recent time is also important to let sharing between friends happen. If some of a user’s friends like an article 3 years ago, it does not affect much the current decision of that user.
Look at Facebook and Twitter where timeline is important. It is about if users can see what their friends are doing, liking and working on recently. If we want to improve our Google +1, we have to customize the Google Page Rank algorithms in such a way that can take the time dimension into account. It is also really important that I can see my friends’ rate for page more often when I do search. This is hard because searching is sometimes more random than keep surfing around the timeline of Facebook or Twitter.
Integrate +1 button into their website/chrome/android
Now, if we assume that users are willing to click that button to help their friends. However, will they do it before or after viewing the content of the page? The answer will be after. There is no point for them to rate it good before they actually see the contents of the web page. And we should not expect them to press the “Back” button in the web browser to come back just to rate +1 for the web page they like.
So, we have to take advantage of our current network of effects into users. There are 2 ways, browser and the web page. Browser is actually inside our control and web is not.
Chrome is taking more and more market share in the browser market. This is a huge advantage for us. We can integrate our +1 button somewhere in the browser so that everytime user search and go to a page, they can press that +1 button. Ping! We got data. And we got data not just from searching, we got data from every users enter any web page, any link, any article. We conquer the web.
But not all users are using our Chrome, we have to help them to have a more convenient way to rate our page. Just like facebook, we need to help them to put +1 in websites, a +1 button for every articles and pages inside that web page. We may not beat Facebook in this area but we can use it along with Chrome. Facebook and Twitter do not have this advantage. This button will be a great marketing tool for all websites to have.
Social Network Integrations – Buzz, Orkut and more
There is no doubt that Google Buzz is losing, it is nowhere near a success and nobody talks about it anymore. Orkut is successful in India and Brazil but is losing its market share now (only 38% market share, June, 2010). However, it would be bad idea if we do not try our best to integrate our new +1 into these services. Anybody who login to Google Account and press +1 for the web page or search result will appear on their Buzz and Orkut social network.
This will be where the friends come from. However, that would not be enough. This will be always an egg and chicken problem for Google. Will Google have a big user base first to spread out the +1 button to the whole world? Or will the spread of the +1 button help Google to have a bigger user base? I would suggest Google to use integrate with Facebook. In other words, allow users to post data from +1 to Facebook. That would be a big deal when Facebook can control and can know what Google’s users do. But, we can do it only for a short amount of time, when we need to grow Buzz up to the same level of Facebook.
After all, what are wrong with all Google efforts to go into social network?
- Google Wave was a success for me at the beginning but then some mistakes like private invitation makes it fail.
- Aadvark was also good but it can not go up too much.
- Youtube is an excellent video sharing service, but not much social there.
- Google Buzz is a nice try to integrate with Gmail, to utilize the current user base, but will fail because it is the wrong market segment. It also serves nothing else a news feed like Twitter.
- Orkut turns out to be successful in India but then get lost in the battle with Facebook.
- Android, why Android here? Because we have a strong userbase that can turn out to be a big value for us if we can create a social network there.
What is my thinking is that if Google can integrate and connect all of these platforms that it has in hand to create more connections, it can have some big social network. Imaging that every of its users have an Android phone, connect, chat and share together through Buzz, watch videos, recommend and share to every friends through YouTube. Ask and answer questions in Aadvark in the idle time or while waiting for the bus. If it can do that, this would be huge. Look at Microsoft and Facebook, they tie into each other. Microsoft and Nokia are the same. Facebook will be present in all Microsoft devices and in all Nokia devices. Even though Microsoft does not have a strong market share in smartphone now, it will keep growing up with these things.
Google has to create a bigger ecosystem and +1 should be improved to become a nice fit into the whole picture.