Look At How Google Is Backing Away From The Idea Of Google+ As A Social Network

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Google+ co-leader Bradley Horowitz says that Google+ isn’t really a social network at all.Talking to VentureBeat, he said, “We think of Google+ as a mode of usage of Google…a way of lighting up your Google experience as opposed to a new product.”

We’ve heard this before.

Back in August, an anonymous Googler told us that we could view Google+ as an “upgrade to your Google experience” and that it would soon be integrated across a bunch of Google properties.

Later that month, chairman Eric Schmidt said that Google+ is really an “identity service” meant to personalise improve other Google properties.

Fine. That’s the long term plan.

But Google+ is a social network. Any attempts to claim otherwise are pure spin.

From the user’s point of view, the PRODUCT called Google+ looks and works almost exactly like Facebook. You sign up with an identity. You pick friends to connect with. You post updates on a wall. You share photos. You chat. You play games.

The mechanics are a little different — you can control who you share with more easily, and chats happen in the context of real-time video with up to 10 other people — but the basics are the same.

In fact, at launch, the other Google+ leader, Vic Gundotra, used other social networks as a foil, saying that they didn’t do things right:

The problem is that today’s online services turn friendship into fast food—wrapping everyone in “friend” paper—and sharing really suffers:

  • It’s sloppy. We only want to connect with certain people at certain times, but online we hear from everyone all the time.
  • It’s scary. Every online conversation (with over 100 “friends”) is a public performance, so we often share less because of stage fright.
  • It’s insensitive. We all define “friend” and “family” differently—in our own way, on our own terms—but we lose this nuance online.

Does anybody really believe that he was talking about generic online services? What other online services involve having “conversations” with “over 100 ‘friends'” simultaneously?

He was talking about Facebook.

(Facebook certainly thinks Google is after them — it shows in both the recent changes to Facebook, like making privacy settings more granular, as well as reports about the company’s actions, like running to Apple to strike an alliance after Google+ launched.)

So why is Google so reluctant to say “we’re building a social network, and we’re after Facebook?”

Maybe because Google knows that Google+ has zero chance of matching Facebook’s user numbers any time soon — maybe ever. As long as the tech media views this as a horse race, Google will never do better than second place.

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