Google Plus

Though I gave a new look to the blog about 4 months back, I never took time to post anything after that 🙂 Sister’s marriage and work took all my time. Almost. So here is another attempt to write something consistently in coming days/months. Let’s see how much I keep it going 🙂

Last week ended with a lot of talk about Google Plus and this isn’t a review about Google Plus. Rather, I was totally amazed at how Google worked out this entire strategy. It started with a month or so when Google announced its plan to support only the latest browser. And over the course of last two weeks it started rolling out changes to the search page with a new toolbar in the top. Then Gmail got changed with a similar toolbar. In fact Gmail had few more noticeable changes such as the always docked menu, people widget on the sides, etc…I personally didn’t realize that Google was up to something. In fact even TechCrunch or GigaOM didn’t talk about any rumors.

But now, when Google Plus was rolled and if you connect all the dots, it all starts to make sense. Now after the roll out, you will see an unified top bar with the Plus widget on the top right. So if you have many Google products opened as tabs, you are more likely to share content using the toolbar. And behind the scenes, it is unimaginable on how Google rolled out such a massive change across so many of its products – with no down time and hiccups. When users were still using their products. When data was getting stored in their servers. Unimaginable. At work, we often discuss and try to arrive at such change management/deployment practices for smaller applications. But given Google’s scale, I just cannot imagine what kind of systems they have built internally.

And aptly named Google Plus, is not about a social networking product aimed at Facebook. I guess it is the next version of Google as a company. Google as how it deals with information. If you look at how Google operated before Plus – it was a company aimed at organizing world’s information. It built products that enabled us search for what we wanted. And the products let user out of their sites as soon as possible. Like you don’t stay on Google search results page but you click and get out of there as fast as possible. And it was only Google’s algorithms that determined what results we got and what information we got access to.

With Plus, it is a fundamental change in Google’s approach towards how their products work and behave. In Plus, Google has built a product where they want users to spend more and more time. They have got nice animated UI which adds few more milliseconds for every request – I heard through an inside information that a 256ms response time code gets rejected. The response time needs to be lesser than that 🙂 The search page looks neat and Gmail has got a makeover and looks like for the first time Larry Page approved of all these changes that increases response time.

I guess the Facebook’s threat of having almost every internet user hooked into their site and creating and consuming information had a major impact at the top brass in Google. Google happened to realize that the way internet is being used by people is changing – there is a people aspect to it. People are no longer searching for information. They are discovering information. The internet is becoming more like a real world. I know information that I get to know through my friends, family, co-workers in the real world. I am more likely to buy a product that my friends and family and co-workers recommend. The same goes with watching a video to looking at an advt in TV. That’s how the internet is becoming too. And that’s where Google was becoming irrelevant. And Facebook looked like a major threat to it.

I think Google figured this out and took a real world approach to re-inventing itself. From Circles in Google Plus to “+1” in search results, the whole lot of changes reflect this. The “+1” near every search result is really cool. If I hit on that and it gets published in my stream, my friends are more likely to check those links. Now this is gonna push the Ad rates really high. Now switch to “Sparks” where Google sends you information/videos/pictures in your Google Plus stream. Here’s where Google takes an algorithmic approach to suggest you content based on your interest (Google already knows everything about us:) ). So in effect your Google Plus stream is both your social graph content (content that your friends and family share) and interest graph content (what Google’s algo decide). And imagine you “+1” the interest graph feeds – Google makes huge revenue there as well.

I think Google has taken a very very long term approach towards this. It has looked at how the web and internet is going to be in 3-5 years down the line and is building products / taking strategy for that long haul. The way they have pushed the web with HTML5, Google Chrome, Android, SPDY Protocol, etc…I guess no one understands the internet business better. Of course Facebook still has a whopping 750M users and there are rumors that Facebook might launch Skype based video chat. And Facebook will be quick enough to clean up and introduce many things. Guess its sleepless nights for the folks at Microsoft.

Edit – and after posting this blog post, I happened to notice that there is a “+1” at the end of the post 🙂

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