Google Hurting Itself with Plus Integration?

I’ve talked before about Google’s actions regarding pushing it’s social network down everyone’s throats whenever you try and use what used to be an unrelated Google tool. The recent kerfuffle over Google allowing Plus users to send an email to your Gmail account without knowing the address unless you take the time to opt out was no surprise to me. Google’s trying to build the ultimate walled garden, and collect everything about us in one place, surely they were not about to leave Gmail users alone when that was such a rich way to push for even more integration with Plus.

Recently, though, I’ve been thinking more about business users though, particularly companies that use Google Apps. It started with the closure, or rather the migration of Google Talk into Hangouts. Oh sure, Talk is still around, barely. You really have to go out of your way to use Talk instead of initiating a hangout. (For example, you have to find an older version of the Android App, the current one uses Hangouts.) Hangouts, of course, require a Google Plus profile. I have no doubt that, eventually, my use of Google Talk for work is going to require a Google Plus profile, tied to my work email address, which is hosted by Google Apps.

But, I don’t want a Plus profile tied to my work address. I have a profile that is tied to my personal online endeavors, like this site. I don’t want that to be part of what people see when I’m just trying to collaborate on a document with them either. I just want to use my Google Apps account to work, without any social network needed.

That was one of the reasons Derrick Wlodarz listed as reasons he moved away from Google Apps to Microsoft Office 365:

At face value, Google’s core Apps offerings in the form of Gmail, Docs/Drive, Sites, and Hangouts are fairly solid offerings. But as a collective whole, they lack a certain polish. That x-factor which takes a platform from just good or great, to excellent. Google’s way is just that — the Google way or the highway.

This in-or-out dilemma exists in many facets in the Google Apps realm. For example, using Google’s Hangouts functionality for video and voice chat requires you to have a Google+ account activated. It’s basically a Google account that is opted into Google’s social network, Google+.

I have nothing against Google+ as I find it vibrantly different and more gratifying than Facebook these days, but forcing your meeting participants to all have Google+ enabled on top of having Google accounts as well? That’s more than a bit self serving if you ask me.

I think this really illustrates the problem. If I were in charge of making this decision, I wouldn’t want everyone in my company to be forced into having a Google Plus profile just to accomplish their work, let alone make my customers create on to collaborate with us as well. It simply opens up too many questions that I don’t want to deal with. (Can the employees just use an existing personal Google Plus account? If so, how do I prevent them from saying something, or joining in a community that my customers, or other employees find offensive? If I don’t let them tie the profile together, I have to trust that they will keep track of which profile they are using at all times. Do I want that? When they leave my company, what do I do with the profile now? I own it, but while they are using it to interact with any/all of Google’s services, how do I want them to act?)

See, this is an area I’d rather not get into, but if I’m an Apps user, I think it’s just a matter of time. Right now, I have a Plus profile, and it’s fairly clear that though it lists where I work, it belongs to me. If I create one with my work email address, that doesn’t belong to me, but I’m still the one responsible it for now, and I really don’t want to be. It’s just something else to worry about.

So if it were me, a platform that didn’t throw me into this situation might look pretty appealing, no? Then again, I’ll go back to the one truth about Google. They are an advertising company, everything else is just a side business, including Apps.

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