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Google+ and web personalisation

It’s been a year since the launch of Google+ and one might wonder what’s happened in that time – no doubt Google is working hard to promote their social network. On one hand we see impressive growth numbers, but on the other we still spend more time on Facebook and hear that many of the Google+ profiles are in fact ‘dead’. Although Google has already shut down some of their projects in the past, it’s difficult to imagine that the same awaits their social network – it’s in a too advanced stage to back down and, as it seems, Google cares too much about it. So what does the future hold for Google+?

Internet according to Google

Page and Brin’s company seems to have a clear vision of the internet and puts the emphasis on the content and its quality. Google+ is the perfect example of that – it offers news and information in accordance with our taste, interested and interaction with other users. Gathering appropriate data from other services, Google will be able to give us precise search results, friends’ posts on Google+, YouTube clips etc. The vision of such a perfect world is met with criticism, starting with doubts about the practical and technical side, ending with comparisons to Orwell’s and Huxley’s works. However, the search results already depend on the used language, location and post recommendation from our friends. Full personalization is still far away, but Google has already taken the first steps in that direction.

The development of Google+

If there was someone to dethrone Facebook (or at least be a worthy rival), it’s Google. I don’t even have to mention the IT support and the possibility of creating a competitive product – the main problem is attracting the people. And that’s something that Google has been doing from the very beginning. As we remember, at first you needed an invitation to sign up to Google+. It creates that sense of elitism and exclusiveness . It’s not the first that Google did it – after all, that’s how GMail started.

The creators of Google+ are paying attention to the users’ comments and gradually introduce new updates and changes, they re-organised the ‘friends’ section (they can’t duplicate others’ ideas, they have to stand out from the crowd). They also introduce new functions which help them get users’ attention.

If we add on top if this current numbers (over 170 million users), it all sounds very promising. However, those against argue that many of G+ accounts are dead – set up out of curiosity and then abandoned. Since Google is merging many of its services (which is supposed to help promote them), some of Google+ accounts were created together with a Gmail account and many users have never visited their circles.

What the future holds

It is believed that Google+ content and comments are of higher quality than in other social platforms. It’s most likely due to Google being strict about using real names and surnames, as well as the first wave of users being geeks and avid fans of new things, who, even now, are the majority of G+ participants. Google+ gives the impression of being more neat – there are fewer party photos, worthless comments or automatic app notifications, and more discussion, valuable content and entries that resemble blog posts than tweets.

As good as it looks now, Google will surely want to attract more people and that means that sooner or later, the quality of content with go down. We can already see that on Facebook  and the tension around it. Although there have been no major slip ups, more and more users are getting unhappy with the service. Let’s remember though that such a reaction isn’t anything new – the more popular a site gets, the more criticism it gets.

Google doesn’t seem to be interested in being an elite site and would rather reach as many people as possible. There’s a long road ahead of them though, as what they need to do is not only attract new users, but also convince them to stay.

Instagram and Pinterest prove that it is possible to create new successful social platforms. Both sites are doing great, although we have to add that their ambitions are nowhere near to Google+’s plans. It is worth noticing that just like Google+ was at dominated by men, the majority of Pinterest users are women, and after the raise of popularity, the proportions started to even out, which of course also influenced the site’s content. Therefore, it’s something that we can expect to happen with Google+.

Google+ and the rest of the internet

One of the biggest reasons to use Google+ is SEO. Thanks to it being integrated with the search engine, it’s very easy to promote yourself, as well as your company. What’s more, if Google does succeed in its plans, a Google+ account will be a must for anyone who wants to be present online.

Google’s other ambitions include attributing content to specific authors, who then get ranked, which would influence the generated content. And so, just like pages have Page Rank, authors will have Author Rank. It’s a very ambitious plan, because it requires convincing millions of people to behave in a certain way, e.g. making links in a certain way, signing up for G+, creating content using those profiles etc.

This is another example of how Google wants to adjust the internet to its vision. In principal, it is supposed to bring us high quality and non-manipulated content, but human nature is a big obstacle here – wherever restrictions are imposed, there are also people who’ll want to bypass them for their profit. But for now, Google+ is fighting to get new, active users.

Will Google+ make it?

Uniting all users of the internet (or at least Google services) within one social network is a very important factor in executing the company’s vision. Usually, by a prospective failure, we mean too little popularity, which in this case would be Google+ being used by a limited number of its enthusiasts. But what if Facebook faded into the background and everyone would use the new site? Theoretically that’s the plan, but right now, there are no sign to indicate that Google would achieve it.

What is most probable, is Google’s algorithms creating a kind of ‘inner circles’. Besides, our own ‘friends sorting’, Google will additionally divide content. It often happens that among your ‘friends list’ there are people who you don’t share interests with and whose posts are of lesser interest to you. Google would help choose the appropriate content, so that you’d get exactly what you’d like to get. And although Facebook is already party deciding for us what to show us, not everyone is happy with that.

Will Google introduce something else? Time will tell.

Mr. Banks is actually a fictional character, but does some real work. This makes him PayLane's fictional employee of the year :)

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