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January 27, 2012

Google+ and the Post-Web Google

I've noticed an increasing number of ads that no longer send people to the company's sites. Instead, the ads only include a link to the official Facebook page. Sites suddenly look outdated, no longer include the latest information and people stop visiting them.


There are still people that visit those outdated sites and many are coming from search engines like Google. Despite Google's efforts to have a comprehensive index, there's a growing subset of the Web it can't properly index and that's Facebook. Sure, Google indexes a lot of Facebook pages, but that's like trying to find your keys in a dark room. Google needs Facebook's map to index all the pages and find the connections between pages and between users, but Facebook is not willing to license this valuable data to the most important competitor. Google tried to make the web social and failed, so now the only option to stay relevant is to build an alternative to Facebook's walled garden and that's Google+.

+1s are the new links, authors have profiles, companies have social pages and this new universe will try to coexist with the old Web in Google's search results. Google tried to focus on the users and find ways to make the social Web more open, but now it has to focus on itself and do everything it can to stay alive and maybe even save the Web. "Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful," but that's impossible if it can't access, understand and rank that information.

Back in 1996, Larry Page and Sergey Brin used links to determine the importance of a Web page. Now links and pages are no longer that important and the old rule of trying to send people to other sites as quickly as possible is difficult to apply. Showing personalized results requires understanding users better, encouraging them to share more content and create connections. In many ways, Google+ is the anti-Google and that's why it's difficult to understand some of the new features.

41 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. exactly, social is sooooo perfect...

      wont replace links soon, will complement it!

      Delete
    2. just wanted to say that the comment from venk is a profanity in an indian language. get rid of it.

      Delete
  2. I don't like FB-ification. Samsung is very stupid, I almost will avoid buying a new smartphone of them. They took the Google bandwagon so stop using FB.

    But hey, we have to do the work of getting everyone to G+.

    Here's a good extension:
    https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/ejpepffjfmamnambagiibghpglaidiec

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    Replies
    1. I agree. Every Friday I try to convince one person to switch. Someone should organise a "move from Facebook" date that is repeated monthly.

      Here's another good Chrome extension that helps people move their photos:

      https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/idiebfmmkhaffedkhjhapmagabcadjhc

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  3. Evan of StatusNet had this great tirade a couple of years back that said something like "Why, as a company, would you _give up control_ of your branding and your page?" I really agree with that. Businesses that have a huge FB presence are taking a big risk. They'd better not upset FB, and that means they don't control their own destiny.

    I sincerely hope that Google will open up Google+ to federation. Most of it's other systems are open or at least standardized with published APIs. If they keep Google+ closed until the dust settles on the big changes, I understand. After that, though, they should encourage other, smaller social groups to adopt the Google+ APIs for their own systems.

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  4. I have to disagree. FB's policies are a danger to companies. Any company that considers Facebook to be more than an adjunct to their company website is putting itself in great danger. As Daniel Bo mentioned they are giving up control of their branding to another entity. It's a big mistake.

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    1. I entirely agree. Does anyone understand why companies are doing this?

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  5. I do not like this post of Ionut, which in general is non-biased and neutral. Recently a few of the posts are trying to forcefully 'praise' Google products, especially Google+.

    This was one quality blog, that took an indepth and true approach towards web computing. But now-a-days the quality seems to detoriate after persistently trying to 'sweetly' degrade other companies and shove google's products - unconciously.

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    1. I think it is vital to put Google's practice into the context of the changing web. I believe Alex has done this here and not pushed Google+ as you suggest. Indeed, Alex's position is not inconsistent with advocating open solutions in the future. (Recall that Google tried open social but it didn't gain traction; being open was not enough).

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  6. This is a very cogent analysis, though I think the Web will remain important, too. Not everything will be a Facebook link.

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    1. Project yourself five years into the future. Why do not think that the majority of the web will migrate behind the closed walls of Facebook if all of the web's users have?

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    2. Because users won't do that. There are too many reasons not to: maintaining control over your information is the main one. Facebook should no more have control over your data that the Dell laptop I'm working on should have over the data I store in it.

      Of course it will own the data that it collects via your usage but that's another story -- people will not be interested in having their life being audited by Facebook.

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    3. I agree that we all need open social solutions in the future; and I am both a user of them and an advocate.

      But the sad fact is that users are more than willing to give up what you say that they should not. And that trend is growing. I don't subscribe to or agree with the trend, but I see it both in my local peer group and it appears to be a global social phenomenon as well.

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  7. Google, PLEASE DON'T search Facebook.

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  8. Oh jesus. It's bad enough getting high ranking links to worthless sites like mahalo and ehow. Imagine facebook pages filling in the search results as well.

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    1. Which is why I think Google wanted to clearly separate its social search from its internet search.

      Which is exactly what they done on their search your world redesign.

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  9. My only disappointment with G+ and its pages, is the inability to customize your URL for your page (as can be done at FB). I really don't want to put a link that looks something like https://plus.google.com/b/104501197730888852541. It just doesn't look all that spectacular. Not that sharing my business name with a FB dot com URL is all that wonderful, but at least, there, my name IS attached.

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    Replies
    1. So just share your QR code to the ugly google link.

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    2. Agree. That should be built in. It's a gap I hope they close. But, you can effectively do the same thing with bitly.com or something similar.

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  10. A bit offtopic guyJanuary 28, 2012 at 4:25 AM

    How can you make user's name, subscribe and videos' buttons smaller? Userscript or extension?

    ReplyDelete
  11. HOLA... Alguien me puede explicar, como agregar mi dispositivo móvil, mi celular!!, a la cuenta, para poder descargar cosas de Android Market...?? POR FAVOR...!!!!!

    MUCHAS GRACIAS...!!

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  12. I don't think you understand what Google+ and Facebook are about. It's not about walled-off content. It's about building profiles of people. Facebook has been able to build very good profiles of their user by collecting information about what people "like" or who they "friend". This data is useful and very valuable to advertisers (and governments!). Google+ is a framework that allows Google to build better profiles of their users. And these aren't the anonymized cookie based profiles, this is data directly associated with a user.

    The times, they are a changin'...

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    1. No.. Because of the silly collect friend games on FB, who you friend means nothing anymore. So I have 3k friends on FB and know none of em, I get stupid ads that tell me nothing and friend suggestions for people I don't know. Useless!

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  13. You're exactly right here Alex. But is Google+ enough when businesses are intentionally closing the web? Is the unification of the privacy policy enough to protect against OpenGraph? I have my doubts. Page needs to fight, and he needs to be even more aggressive than he is right now.

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  14. A very insightful article. Well said. A web that is not able to be indexed--or easily indexed is indeed a problem for Google. Facebook is only the first to exploit this in a competitive way, but sure not the last.

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  15. I have to say I am finding search on Google much less useful than a few years ago. For example when I recently searched for news of all the rain we've been having in our local area the first three links were about some floods we had a year ago. Not exactly relevant anymore.
    I can't say I understand search or the algorithms associated with it but my main concern with the apparent merging of search and social is that the next time I search for news on the current weather in my area I'll get links to videos of lolcats getting wet in the rain. My few forays into FB confirms that we are all of us much too easily amused. Sadly Google+ is only reinforcing that reality.
    What I do wonder is whether search will remain relevant to the average web user in the future when so much of what we do these days is done through apps.

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    Replies
    1. Social Results and Generic ones are not unified. Google is clearly separating them. Only thing new that you HAVE Social Results now. Twitter made a bad move not renewing their Real-Time search partnership with Google.

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  16. I think it's important to stop regarding Facebook as "the social web", or as an important and necessary step in information-age technology, or as a progressive use of a new media meeting the demands of a new generation, but simply as a marketing tool. It's powerful and sinister, and that's nothing new, not even for Google, who years ago remodeled itself from a search company into an ad agency. The same transformation took place in print media and television. We don't riot, so it must not be too serious. In fact, moaning on blogs is a form of masturbatory entertainment, taking the edge off a feeling of societal voicelessness, giving us the immediate satisfaction of a somewhat meaningful involvement. Facebook collects enormous amounts of demographic information: the stuff dreams are made of for selling more product. Everyone from my local pub to the Fortune 500 realize the financial advantage to being "liked". The internet as a technology has been bought. Google+ is just a product. Google could do as IBM did, and drop out of the personal/social game, which requires a great expense of energy appealing to consumers, and instead fully invest in the hard sciences of the internet. This would be a great way of doing good. It would be nice to know a company like Google, which has earned my trust in many ways, was working behind the scenes safeguarding the integrity of the web, rather than trying to discover what me & my friends were listening to and talking about.

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    1. But if Google cedes the consumer market, we will almost inevitably be compelled to use Facebook to keep up with friends and family. And business models that drive consumption also have a significant impact on Internet technology.

      I want them to continue in the social game so that they have a chance at influencing the development of that critical infrastructure.

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    2. It's only critical if that's the direction we deem critical. I think it's superficial, but it's also been a revelation concerning what we want and an insight into how internet technology can meet social needs. The web is far more powerful than this alone. At it's most basic it's a network. The military uses the net differently, as does usenet, as did the old bbs. What we are able to see of this infrastructure is dependent on what our browsers show us. Google search accessed through Explorer or Navigator opened our eyes to a different web than we had previously been seeing. Right now it's useful like a directory in a mall, showing us the various establishments (websites) we might visit according to their announced offerings (html header data). Facebook might be a player in this scene for a while. That is, they might offer a trendy product in this mall for a while, however they will have to continually innovate while not offending our trust, and appealing to ever-knowledgeable and fashion-conscious consumers seems eventually exhaustive. I hope Google doesn't spend themselves this way. My browser should be able to access many different network landscapes. I should only have to enter the mall when I mean to shop, and likewise only access a social web when I need to connect with my community. The search box in Wikipedia returns a completely different set of results than Google, but it's using the same web. Perhaps my browser could show me only the network of newspapers and periodicals when I choose, or only a net for research, like the index of a reference book, or perhaps a custom landscape like my homepage but web-wide. The www is still very young and it's being viewed as only one thing or another according to how the search results, within our current browsers, within our current devices, are revealing it. I think Google could concede this particular market, the shopping mall net landscape, which is only one possible part even if today it looks like the whole.

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  17. only one genereal question - can really Google conquer with Facebook? When Google+ will have more users than FB? I wonder how Google is spreading its service.. and just interesting, whether Google can monopolize Internet...

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    1. I agree with you. It is not clear that Google+ will succeed.

      Ironically, the success or failure of Google+ depends largely upon users. If you want there to be a viable Facebook competitor, you can use the network efforts to your advantage but it is difficult. One strategy is to post important updates to Google+ exclusively so that people use Google+ to keep up to date with you. And you can then use Facebook to alert people that you are posting on Google+ (if EdgeRank allows such notifications to be communicated). This assumes that you want a viable competitor to Facebook, which I do because I believe that it would be healthier if there was.

      Delete
  18. Social media.. Instead of websites.. Not here. Honestly if someone tried to send me to a Facebook page, I'd be pissed off.

    When I search for products, I want to see an inventory, a nice clean design, easy to follow links etc.

    I HATE Facebook pages. They never have the right information, hard to navigate and no room for inventory or order information.

    Websites are not going anywhere, Facebook is just buzzing with older people now and they think it's cool. Soon I think people will become frustrated like me with social media, because there's NO WAY Facebook is taking over websites... Lmao.

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    1. Well, not sure I agree with you. The current state of Facebook pages is temporary; why wouldn't they continue to evolve the pages such that it becomes the closes operating system for the web? The only financial reason that they would not, is if driving traffic away from Facebook is as profitable as keeping traffic on Facebook. And currently keeping traffic on Facebook is worth an enormous amount of money to them (note the importation of all of wikipedia onto Facebook, differential cost of advertising links that keep people within Facebook, Facebook credits etc...).

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  19. Will google+ ever surpass FB? I wonder how!

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    1. They already have 100 million users and growing rapidly!

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  20. cant see google getting anywhere near facebook tbh...

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  21. Wright, all they in business and all want to get traffic and increasing the site performance. Leave them what they are doing.

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