Google Plus Functionality is great for sharing across the web

When Google+ came along its remit was as obvious as its functionality was complex. It brought in individuals from the entire Google ecosystem and began, by degrees, to ascribe weight to their presence, expertise, connections, interactions and knowledge. It tuned profiles that used to be “strings” into people and entities that were proper “things”. 

In doing so Google could see the difference between one digital profile and another and through that begin the process of machine-grading the Veracity aspect, which is the trickiest of the 4Vs (which are Volume, Velocity, Variety and Veracity) when it comes to dealing with information on the web.

To achieve it, Google supposed that Google+ would make sense only if within it people from all across the web found the digital equivalent of “One Roof, Everything”. In Google+ there was functionality or software that was good for: communities, chat, video calling, video-conferencing, idea sharing, content curating, business pages, personal profiles, business profiles, photo-sharing, and reviews. 

The Achilles’ Heel of every plan is what happens at the interface where the execution of everything that has to be done meets the perception and expectations of its audience. Google+, the social network that grew quickly (because Google initially made it a requirement to have a profile in order to use any of its services) did not become the darling of the world and his wife because it required time to learn. 

You wanted to format a message, for example? Using mark ups was not easy (it still isn’t). Did you want to share some content, you had to know the difference between sharing to a circle, sharing to circles, sharing to the public and sharing to extended circles. Did you want to start a video call? You had to choose between a video call and a public video call (Hangout On Air). Everyone involved (initially) had to be Google+ members and you all had to have some connection in order to receive the invitation to attend in time. The number of obstacles to each uptake did not get any easier with the other aspects of the functionality, either. 

For those of us who took the time to learn it and use it benefited hugely from it. A whole new world of connections and knowledge unfurled before us. Suddenly we had been transported from the very feet of the Mount of Knowledge to the very top and the world was our oyster. We could tag people who were smarted than us in conversations we deeply cared about. We arranged to hangout in real life (HIRL) with people we had never met before and, when we did meet, we discovered that the ice had long been broken, that what mattered was the warmth of the connection, the brilliance of the conversation and the value of the individual, as a person. 

But it was a closed shop. As change across the digital world accelerated, Google+ became arcane. Marketers did not have time to learn it and their automatic marketing got such poor response from the knowing Google+ crowd that they went away thinking they’d been sending messages to the void, a place where only ghosts resided. Newbies felt intimidated. There was so much they could do they literally didn’t know where to start. And even those of us who were (and are devoted to G+) found that balancing demanding work with the time the network could absorb was a challenge that was hard to meet. 

While there were tools that could allow for the sharing of Google+ content to happen they too were an afterthought and probably underused. So, just like in Vegas, Google+ became the place where what happened there, stayed there. 

Until now.

Gideon Rosenblatt has written a brilliant piece on why Google+ has changed. A lot has happened since June 28, 2011 when the social network started and the web has changed a lot. Heck, the world has changed a lot. Having one place where everyone can come and do everything (the original vision) no longer makes any sense when everyone has their favorite place and favorite way of doing things and do not want to change unless there is a compelling reason to do so. 

Initially, the reason that was cited for change was: Google+. That made sense only to the faithful who found themselves isolated. So, another reason had to be found, or rather a different reason had to surface. 

By breaking up Google+ functionality into apps Google has unified the mobile and desktop worlds and created familiarity in the way things work. By stripping each app away from Google+ integration it has also made each one intuitive to use in a way that it wasn’t before. No one who has used Skype will fail to grasp how Hangouts work now. Consider that in before this happened the integration of Hangouts within Google+ was such that even those of us who used them regularly required the expertise of the unequaled Ronnie Bincer to make head or tails of some of the changes. 

Photosharing which frequently was a science of its own is now the kind of app Flickr should have been. And Google+, paired down, has become the place where we can still have communities and deep conversations. The place where we can still go out and find experts from across the world to interact with, except it’s now simpler. The paired down look makes it as intuitive to use as it should have been at the beginning and wasn’t. 

What Does Google Gain?

Make no mistake. Throughout the rollercoaster ride with the Press where every half-baked journalist who wanted quick clickbait or did not get what Google+ was, wrote up a “Google+ is a Ghost Town” piece, Google’s reputation took a bruising. 

Its engineers and leaders struggled to bring to the world a vision of how they thought social should have been and each iteration only earned them more ridicule from the Press and more frustrated angst from the Google+ user base who were tired of reading misinformation and wanted Google to make the world see. The separation of apps and services now provides clarity in usage numbers and a newfound cleanness to the data accrued. The simplification of Google+ changes the focus from “bring the world inside Google+” to “Take Google+ to the world”. Greater sharing of posts and content, more easily, is making Google+ surface, through profiles sharing information on Twitter and Facebook. 

For Google whose semantic indexing algorithms are busy tracking digital profiles across the web, ascribing value to their activities, expertise and, by inference, understanding the importance and relative value of the information they share, this is a clearing of the streams. 

The simplification of Google+, rather than signal the beginning of the end for Google’s social network (there will be more than a few articles in the press that will take this slant) signals a clarity in the indexing of signals Google collects that place fresh value upon Google+ and each of the other apps and services. 

Machine Learning is enabling Google to speed up its semantic indexing of entities across the web. In the early days Google+ played a disproportionately critical role in this because it was the only clear social signal Google had to work with. But that is not nearly enough for algorithms that need to recognize and then use the pattern of moving data across the web. With access to Twitter’s firehose and Facebook’s mobile app Google has ‘won’ the struggle on reach across the web. Competing companies recognize that without indexing and proper search they may as well be invisible. 

The remaining struggle that’s just beginning will revolve around relevance. And there Google will have to prove that its new pole position makes it as capable of delivering equally with, or better than any competitor.