In a connected world, #socialmedia is just the beginning
Ever since the introduction of Google+ I’ve been watching the atmosphere surrounding it quite curiously. Up front, I’m going to state that I dramatically prefer Google+ over Facebook and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. This may sound like something you’d hear from an idiotic fanboy, but this isn’t about blind faith or anything like that – my allegiance is to the future, and by the end of this post, you just might feel the need to jump ship and not look back at the big blue again.
For now, let’s cover the basics: On the one side are the haters – people just hellbent on seeing Google+ fail and pretending like everything Google plugs it into is part of their failed strategy to make it into a successful social media platform, and then there are the people that drink the Google Kool-aide thinking it’s the best social media platform ever.
The problem with this all along is that both sides of the coin are dead wrong.
Facebook showed up to a thermonuclear arms race with a potato gun... let’s find out why.
Google+ isn’t a social media platform
Let’s get this out of the way early in the discussion. Google+ was never meant to be a social media platform to compete with Facebook, and the irony is that Facebook was never in the same league as Google+ in overall scope. Both exist for very different reasons, of which Google will shine and Facebook will eventually crash and burn.
Don’t believe me?
Let’s take a look at what’s really going on then, and hopefully you’ll begin to understand the real point of Google+ in the bigger picture.
In order to properly frame the context, we need to start from the beginning, and that means it’s time to hop into the Wayback Machine with Mr Peabody and Sherman.
Coincidentally, Dreamworks is making a movie of this in 2014
In the beginning there was...
The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) envisions a cyber world – the Identity Ecosystem - that improves upon the passwords currently used to log-in online. It would include a vibrant marketplace that allows people to choose among multiple identity providers - both private and public - that would issue trusted credentials that prove identity.
For example, student Jane Smith could get a digital credential from her cell phone provider and another one from her university and use either of them to log-in to her bank, her e-mail, her social networking site, and so on, all without having to remember dozens of passwords. If she uses one of these credentials to log into her Web email, she could use only her pseudonym, "Jane573." If however she chose to use the credential to log-in to her bank she could prove that she is truly Jane Smith. People and institutions could have more trust online because all participating service providers will have agreed to consistent standards for identification, authentication, security, and privacy.
The point of NSTIC was to leverage an ecosystem of profile information that could be verified against multiple sources (and interactions) in order to reasonably ascertain a person’s trusted identity online. If you say you are Jane Smith, then the point of NSTIC is to have multiple trusted parties online vouch for you in order to strengthen the plausibility and create a reasonable assurance it was you.
NSTIC wasn’t going to do this itself, and that is also the point (if you read the website). Instead, the mandate falls upon online entities which collect and curate identifying information about you in order to create a sort of digital passport for your actions. At the time (and this is still true), there was no better way to do this than to set up a wonderful social media network and make it so popular that hundreds of millions of people will share all sorts of information about themselves, which in turn creates a “social profile” that can be reasonably verified for further interactions and relevance.
Facebook was likely the first into this foray with Facebook Connect and their SocialGraph implementations a few years back – and being the head of the pack for social media, they were an obvious forerunner to make this happen.
But something happened along the way that nobody expected.
Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Stuff...
Yes, I know... My mind is bigger on the inside.
Google realized that this whole trusted identity management thing was beneficial outside of the Internet and into a wholly connected life. The future is actually in an Internet of things, and those things need to know who you are. They, too, decided that the days of multiple logins and passwords were out the door and so unified their entire ecosystem under a single digital identity management dashboard known as Google+. They also realized that in a connected world, it’s pretty stupid to balkanize a slew of services and treat them separately since they all have a relevance to each other – for instance your Gmail Contacts work in Google+ and also Google Voice/Hangouts, which in turn are connected to your Android device, and so on and so forth.
Everything you do in their ecosystem is now tied to your NSTIC profile in Google+, which is a weighted and long-term profile passport. The more you use it and engage with it, the stronger that identity passport gets which in turn raises your relevance online, and therefore increases the “trust” in that identity.
This is roughly the point where Google+ and Facebook part ways in how this NSTIC is implemented and to what extent, because it is about here where Facebook no longer has the power to tread while Google will keep on trucking long into the (automated, post-scarcity, robotic) future.
Facebook is idle in the social media sphere, but using SocialGraph (Facebook Connect) you still are required to log into whatever apps 3rd parties offer within the Facebook ecosystem, as well as whatever 3rd parties across the world wide web implement the Facebook Connect login. This is a basic form of utilizing that NSTIC aspect, but that’s about the end of the road for Facebook.
On the other hand, the Google ecosystem is far more robust and so their NSTIC extends into nearly every part of your digital life and into real life as well.
The following things use your Google+ identity
And this is just the tip of the iceberg...
Android Tablets/Phones – Google owns Motorola now, so they make their own tablets and phones, and some damned good ones at that. Sure you could use your smartphone or tablet without logging in, but your functionality may as well be crippled.
Google Chrome Browser – Arguably one of the best browsers for the web.
ChromeCast – Now it’s on your television.
ChromeBook – Google has their own laptops now, connected to Google Drive.
Google Wallet – Used to make purchases online or in real life via NFC on your tablet or phone.
Google Play – Now you know what Google Wallet is for online
Google Cars – It’s not a far fetch to think that Google intends on integrating its technology into self driving cars, and now your car can identify you properly. The car of the future doesn’t need keys in the ignition and quite frankly it probably doesn’t even need you to do anything but get in and go for the ride. Owning a self-driving car is in the near future as Google went ahead and lobbied for laws to be put into place in order to make them road legal.
Unless you don’t need to buy a car anymore because self-driving cars are more efficient and you really only need to get from point A to B reliably on demand, in which case your Android smartphone or tablet (when logged in) could call a car to you (because the phone/tablet knows where you are), debit your account (Google Wallet), and using Google Maps tell the car how to get there and back.
All as fast as you can say “Ok Google, Send a Car”
On your Google Glass AR headset.
And of course there is the Music, Books, and other media that are all available on Google Play for purchase and viewable on your laptop (maybe a Chromebook?) or an Android device linked to the Play Store, where you’ve logged in with your Google Account -
Which is to say - Google+
Then there is Youtube, and this one was a huge contention among longtime users of the service. But youtube isn’t an independent company any longer and is owned by Google as a service, so it makes absolute sense that it’s integrated with Google+ because comments and interaction are part of your NSTIC identity and social media interaction overall is how that identity gets strengthened or weakened to be more or less relevant in the bigger picture. The spam and abuse filters in the Youtube comments system are likely the same ones that were used and trained in Gmail – so while there was a sudden rush of spam and abuse comments in the beginning, all that did was accelerate the heuristic learning system to teach it what is good and bad.
And you really thought Google screwed up and didn’t expect the influx of spam and abuse, didn’t you? Wrong... they were betting on it, and they won.
There is, of course, Google Hangouts which is a free chatting and video call service that is also integrated with Google Voice. Free phone calls anywhere in the United States, and up to ten people in a video chat for free.
And then obviously there is Gmail which is also integrated into the ecosystem for email.
All of this is tied into and feeding your NSTIC passport. It’s all interconnected in digital life and real life over time. The more you use any service in the ecosystem the stronger or weaker you make your trusted identity, and the more you either increase or decrease your relevance to that system.
Want to be heard in a Youtube conversation in the comments? If you haven’t built up your NSTIC identity through Google+, which is to say logged in and used any of the services or provided information to it in order to reliably verify you and then taken the time to build your identity up reasonably through interaction, then your comments are considered anonymous and irrelevant. You go to the bottom of the pile.
Not to mention that Google Search itself is now based on Google+ and your social relevance among the ecosystem. The search results are now tailored to the individual based on relevance and your interactions across the whole ecosystem – so it weighs what your friends have to say higher than what a random company on the Internet trying to SEO their way into the results has to say.
If you squint really hard, you’ll see the pixel representing Facebook in the Google Universe
In order for Facebook to even be anywhere in the same universe as Google+ at this point, their ecosystem would have to include the following:
Facebook would have to have its own search and video service, so let’s say Microsoft bails them out and integrates Bing search and Video. They’d also have to offer voice service for free in the United States and give you your own phone number, then they’d have to convince Microsoft to let Skype have free video chat with groups while building an HTML5 integrated system into Facebook.
Facebook would also have to start making their own Facebook laptops, smartphones, and tablets while also offering Facebook Cloud Drive. And while we’re at it, they’d have to offer a free suite of collaboration tools that use that cloud drive such as Google Docs, etc uses for Google Drive. Again, maybe Facebook could convince Microsoft to make Live365 services free and integrate them into Facebook?
Then Facebook would also have to have their own Facebook Maps service, and then Facebook Cast to let it work on your HDTV and tie into the whole ecosystem under the single Facebook login. You would also have to convince Facebook to run their own Facebook Marketplace for every conceivable media type on the planet as well as apps market for the Facebook phones and tablets.
But the truth is... Facebook doesn’t really have any of that in the bigger picture, which is why they are cramming advertising into every inch of Facebook they can intrusively to make quarterly profits.
Google+ isn’t even remotely close to being the failure that people want to believe it is.
If anything, Google+ is doing what Facebook failed to achieve – a ubiquitous identity management system that extends across the Internet and real life under countless circumstances and scenarios, connecting every facet of your digital life together seamlessly – of which only one out of an increasing number of use cases for it looks like social media.
So in the future, it’s probably a good idea to manage your Google+ identity and engage with that ecosystem, since it’s going to become a very large part of your digital and real life going forward and across the board.
Or you can convince yourself that Facebook has a future and that Google isn’t running circles around them... but that would be kinda delusional at this point, because we’ve only just scraped the tip of the iceberg with the total ubiquity that Google is implementing.
In the bigger picture, Facebook never had a fighting chance.
Ready to engage?
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