Google Me, Google You

Google Logo in Lego

Credit: flickr / keso

Have you heard? Google is apparently making a new social network that will rival Facebook.

This is being derided because, well, how can anyone hope to challenge Facebook? (Language stats from InsideFacebook) And Orkut has, tellingly, been a “huge success in Brazil“.

I often find myself voicing the opinion that there is no need to create another social networking site – let people bring their existing networks to you (Disqus allows you to do this, I use it on this blog). And yet here, I’m excited and think there’s real potential.

Why? Because much as Facebook is presented as the only social networking site, that’s bunk. Google has a ton of social networks – aside from Orkut, it’s just that many of them are functional, useful sites with a layer of social, and they’re disparate. I’ve listed a bunch below (in no particular order) – can you think of any more?

Don Norman wrote ages ago about the organizational structure of finding things on Google and how that might reflect on the organization itself:

Is Google simple? No. Google is deceptive. It hides all the complexity by simply showing one search box on the main page. The main difference, is that if you want to do anything else, the other search engines let you do it from their home pages, whereas Google makes you search through other, much more complex pages. Why aren’t many of these just linked together? Why isn’t Google a unified application? Why are there so many odd, apparently free-standing services?

A long time ago, 1968 to be precise, a wise person named Conway wrote: “Organizations which design systems … are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.” So true: I can see this in products from many a company. Except with Google, there appears to be no organizational structure of the product. Hmm.

But what I see here, is that Google has all the components of a social networking site that would be technically far better than anything Facebook is doing; they have an existing, and huge, user base; they are also more trusted. But will they give users the option to assemble them in a coherent manner? Perhaps with the addition of widgets from outside, like Twitter, and allow people to manage their Twitter AND their Buzz from one place?

Or will they start from scratch?

I really hope it’s the former.

9 Thoughts

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Cate Huston, Meg Flynn. Meg Flynn said: im excited too! http://bit.ly/dhOaty /: Google Me, Google You by @kittenthebad […]

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  2. I'd say Google isn't actually more trusted. A lot of the 'normal people' are very concerned about their privacy when it comes to Google, even as they throw all their details into Facebook (though a lot of them keep that to a minimum, too).

    Isn't Wave still in beta? I'm sure many more of us would be waving with our friends and family, if they could get accounts and the service actually worked.
    There are still ideas being thrown around, such as in this recent Google post: http://googlewavedev.blogspot.com/2010/07/devel

  3. I'd say Google isn't actually more trusted. A lot of the 'normal people' are very concerned about their privacy when it comes to Google, even as they throw all their details into Facebook (though a lot of them keep that to a minimum, too).

    Isn't Wave still in beta? I'm sure many more of us would be waving with our friends and family, if they could get accounts and the service actually worked.
    There are still ideas being thrown around, such as in this recent Google post: http://googlewavedev.blogspot.com/2010/07/devel

  4. Ashoori says:

    I feel like you have an interview with Google tomorrow. Don't you?

  5. kittenthebad says:

    Maybe!

  6. kittenthebad says:

    You're right, it's weird actually – is it that they don't understand Google and that makes them nervous, but Facebook is more comprehensible (well, as long as you don't go near the privacy settings) and manageable?

    If you need a wave invite I may have some more. Ping me and I'll see what I can do!

  7. I think it's because Google comes round your house and takes pictures.

    I made a second Wave account for other purposes, and somehow that's also got invites, so I've got plenty. I could invite my close friends, but the (nonexistant) network effects mean they would never use it.
    It's also still buggy. I've been keeping a list of bugs I've found, and they're very slowly fixing things here and there.

  8. […] depends on our mental models of ourselves and our network. I was started to explore this in this post, and I’m increasingly fascinated by it. So I’m going to keep thinking – and let […]

  9. kittenthebad says:

    Haha yeah it's true, some people love seeing themselves on street view, but some people get creeped out.

    I find the biggest problem with wave is how slow it runs in firefox (less so in safari, but still not great) – after it's been going for a while I have to kill it.

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