Google Plus is Not a Social Network?

This has been a big week at Google, what with big changes to Gmail and Google Reader. Some folks are not thrilled with the new more Plus-friendly Google Reader.  I can sort of see their point. I didn’t use Google Reader’s “Shared Items” feature, mostly because they never integrated it with Feedburner’s Link Splicer in the same way Delicious was integrated there. (Even after Google bought it, they never integrated the two, in fact, they’ve never done much of anything with Feedburner to be honest, leading to the current state of Delicious not working any more.)

However, I know lots of folks did use Google Reader’s shared items, both as a bit of a mini user community, and as a way to grab that feed and show it on their blogs, feed the RSS to Twitter, etc. Now those options are pretty much gone from Google Reader, but they did make it easy to share items in Google Plus, which has been sorely lacking up until now. It’s unfortunate that they decided to make Plus the replacement for the much more open format of Shared Items, but that’s their prerogative.

In fact, as we see from the horse’s mouth itself, forcing all your Google product usage to be tied into Google Plus is pretty much exactly the idea. Frankly, this interview is a little scary. My hope that Google Plus will eventually have an open API that allows me to post something on Twitter and have it picked up by Google Plus, the way I currently can with Facebook and LinkedIn, seems to be in direct opposition to where Google is actually going with Plus.

Too many pundits and tech bloggers have made the mistake of thinking of Google+ as a Facebook competitor, but it’s absolutely not — at least not as far as Google is concerned.

Of course, Google is still in the business of competing with Facebook for ad dollars. That boils down to compiling the best, most actionable data about consumers to sell to advertisers.

And if Plus catches on, Google stands a much better chance of accomplishing that goal, not by orchestrating a Great Migration of users from one social network to another, but by subtly linking all your Google-powered online activity and profiles so advertisers can see a more complete picture of you than Facebook could ever offer.

If Google’s goal, with Plus, is to truly tie you as an individual, across all of Google’s properties, I don’t see any reason for Google Plus to have an open API that shares data from outside of Plus. It’s as much, if not more, of a walled garden that Facebook or Twitter will ever be.

Of course, since they rolled out Plus as a “social network” and really allowed it to be portrayed as a direct competition to Facebook, it’s also possible that this is all revisionist history. It’s possible they thought they could kill Facebook and Twitter, and now that they realize that they can’t, and haven’t delivered anything close to the promise of Plus that was all the talk of the pundit world just a few month ago, they are moving the goal posts. Frankly, if they wanted a single sign-on account across all their properties, they could easily have created that, without all the fan fare of Google Plus. I don’t think that was it at all. Plus is more than single sign-on across Google properties, it’s Google’s way to not only track how you use their services, but also track the things you share with your friends, the things you say to your friends, who you email with, who you have in your circles, how you describe those circles, etc. Basically, an advertisers wet dream.

Also known as everything we always feared Facebook was trying to do, but with the same people who decried Facebook’s privacy applauding them, a pretty impressive feat.

For myself, after reading the interview, I’m even less likely to spend any time messing with Google Plus. If it is to be limited to bringing in information from Google’s other properties, I’m not interested. I’m not interested in moving years worth of work in Flickr to Picasa just to make it easier to share in Plus. I’m not interested in moving my websites back to Blogger just to make it easier to share in Plus. I can share those things just fine on Twitter and Facebook, and more importantly, my social networks are already there too.

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