Gina Trapani, who is always among the best sources on the internet for reliable, well presented information, has another interesting post today about Google.Me, Google’s forthcoming Facebook competitor, clone and/or killer. Embedded into Gina’s post is a 224 (long-winded much?) slide presentation given recently by Google’s Paul Adams.
I read the presentation for as long as I could, until exhaustion, hunger and that “will this never end” feeling I last had when I tried for the third time to slog my way through 100 Years of Solitude overcame me. When I awoke from my slumber, I had a new vision of what Google.Me may be all about.
While I’m still very concerned that it is getting cobbled together and will be thrust upon us in an unfinished condition, Paul’s slides lead me to believe that it will be built around some combination of filters, lists and easy to understand and implement (unlike its nemesis Facebook) privacy controls. Given how important the proper use of filters is to a decent Facebook experience, there is the potential to do some good here.
I don’t “friend” my kids or their friends on Facebook. I also don’t generally “friend” my co-workers on Facebook. But if I did (or ever do) I can completely understand how hard it would be to adequately compartmentalize those areas of your life within a social network. And I’m positive that most people on Facebook don’t understand how to implement its byzantine privacy controls. For example, I am amazed at the number of people who have managed to protect some of their information, but leave other parts (often their photos) wide open to view by anyone. Not to mention the risk that search engines and third party apps may penetrate the privacy walls that are (sort of) in place.
I also believe that there is real benefit in grouping people by relationship proximity. While I don’t take the “all-comers” approach used by many of my fellow tech-bloggers, I have a couple hundred Facebook “friends.” I care about all of them, but I care about some a lot more than others. Everyone has similar groups. The problem is focusing on and targeting one without over-including or neglecting the other.
If Google can make an application that looks and feels like an integrated platform, and not a bunch of random parts tossed together (which is exactly what Google Apps looks like), add a way to easily create buckets of “friends,” and make it really, really easy to slice, dice and deliver content to the various buckets, it might be onto something.
Ideally, Google.Me will serve as a hub for all or most of its users’ Google-created and third party content. Foursquare, Skype, Yelp, Twitter (?), etc. This would allow for deeper integration, and consolidated sharing with the relevant buckets. Likewise, there needs to be filters on the receiving end, to spare me from Farmville and other stuff that make me want to set my hair on fire, and to keep Dwight from ever actually meeting me in person.
The way Paul’s presentation keeps returning to the groups of friends concept is strong evidence that buckets are a big part of Google’s strategy. I just hope Google builds something new and exciting and doesn’t try (again) to force us to embrace our Google Profile. At least not without completely reinventing Google Profiles.
If they get it right, cool. If not, there’s always this.