Telirati Analysis #14 Google's Social Menagerie and its Android and Web Habitats
N.b.: The tables in this article are available as a single table here
Welcome to the menagerieWho knew how social Google really is? Google has at least nine properties that can be considered "social." Back in our analysis #11 we took a quick inventory and found that social characteristics permeate Google's collection of tools and applications, and that Google+ missed some key opportunities in high-value areas.
Here we expand our collection of specimens and apply taxonomy to Google's ecology of things with social characteristics and how well adapted they are to Web and Android habitats. We divide the analysis into two parts: content characteristics and social features.
Content characteristicsIn addition to search, email, and office productivity, Google runs at least nine "applications" that deal in user-provided content. We can't call them "Web sites" since most of them are presented through both Android applications and a Web user interface. But the extent and quality of this presentation is unequal and uneven. The content varies by media type and long form/short form characteristics. The intended persistence of the content also varies, though persistence often really means "ease of discovery" which can diminish quickly if a chronological update stream is the principal means of discovery.
|Google+||Web-first, Android app has a subset of functionality||Short-ish form, longer than twitter, shorter than a blog post||Short persistence - blink and it's gone|
|Orkut||Web-first, has a really bad Android app||Short to medium form||Short persistence - blink and it's gone|
|YouTube||Web-first, Android app has a subset of functionality||Video||Medium to long|
|Photos||Near-parity between Web and Android||Images, stories||Long|
|Drive||Web-first but Android at near-parity||Long form||Long|
|Blogger||Web-first, Android app has a poor subset of functionality||Medium to long-form, essay-like articles||Long|
|Sites||Web-only (duh!)||Multi-page, long persistence||Long|
|Groups||Web-only||Short to medium form||Medium to long (pinned)|
You can think about managing social applications as an exercise in applying common tools along common axes of characteristics and functionality. Does an application lack something basic like an update stream? Even code-oriented applications like JIRA and Github have update streams. If Google Code deserves to survive, it will have to catch up to competitors by implementing those social features.
Across all properties with user generated content and social characteristics, Google can gain an advantage over competitors by applying common social tools, such as an update stream, threaded comments, and user management features with a more-uniform level of sophistication. This means breaking up monolithic implementations and applying the modules to applications. An obvious example would be to make Blogger the long-form presentation variant for content that's too long and too persistent for Google+. But this principle can be applied to applications as varied as "social coding" and Web site hosting.
|Update stream||Discussion and comments||User and group management|
|Google+||Big, fast update stream, manageable with circles||Replies, but not branching threads||Flexible circle management integrated with Google address book|
|Orkut||Fast update stream||Linear comments||Friend list|
|YouTube||Weak||Linear comments, now integrated with Google+ commenting||Can follow users/channels; Users frquently maintained separate identities for YouTube|
|Photos||Full (too-tight) integration with Plus||Plus comments||Plus circles|
|Drive||None||Collaborative editing, comments embedded in documents, document sharing in hangouts||Document sharing|
|Blogger||Weak. Can "follow" blogs, but it's a different "follow" than in Google+||Weak, but optionally integrated with Google+||None|
|Code||None||Issue tracking and discussion||Everything public|
|Sites||None||Wiki-like comments and attachments are optional||Sites can be private to a group|
|Groups||Chronological view of posts, post-by-email||Rich threaded branching discussions||Group management not integrated with other Google properties|
Each of Google's properties needs to be adjusted in different ways to fit into a grid of social characteristics and tools that extract maximum utility for those characteristics. Google is well-placed to do this, and a rational, consistent approach is what Google often, but not always, converges on in the end.
|Google+||Disaggregation into separate photo and social update apps|
|Orkut||Will be EOL'ed in September|
|YouTube||Automatic integration of videos into the Plus update stream, consolidation of follower features with Plus|
|Photos||Needs a little more separation from Plus, a separate update stream of shared images|
|Drive||Document updates should be posted to an update stream visible to|
|Blogger||Integration of long form content discovery with Plus, perhaps in the form of a seprate content stream|
|Code||Needs to be EOLed but for the huge potential to show what "social coding" could be like in the googleverse.|
|Sites||Needs a feature upgrade to make it competitive with first-tier Web site building tools like Squarespace|
|Groups||Adding "pinning" to Plus could integrate all of Groups functionality into Plus|
Google needs to apply disaggregation, combination, and cross-domain implementation of a common set of social functions. Photos and YouTube are media-specific views into a common social update stream, but with variants in presentation that account for discover-ability requirements. There are also opportunities to combine the way some data is stored. Groups, for example, may boil down to a variation of how Google+ content is acquired and presented.
It wouldn't be worth doing without an upside. The measure of the upside is to be found in the fact that many domains that seem unrelated can all be enhanced using social media tools. A deeper analysis of this form should be able to tell Google's product managers what to keep and what's in a hopeless competitive situation, and, if something is worth keeping, what are the resource requirements to make it first-rate.