Earlier this week, Google announced a concept that they call “+1.” Anyone who has ever used or even heard of the “like” button on Facebook will no doubt realize that this is Google’s attempt to counter the popularity of Facebook likes!
This is not the first time that Google has attempted to counter the incredible growth of Facebook and social media. Other notable attempts include Orkut (their social network), Google Buzz (a social extension to Gmail), real-time search (integrates Twitter and blogs into search results), and Google Wave (integration of IM and mail, among other things). If past performance is any indication of future success, +1 has an uphill path to success. For whatever reason, consumers (perhaps other than Brazilians who use Orkut!) have not adopted Google’s social applications in the same way they have accepted most other Google innovations (like maps, Gmail, YouTube, and so on).
Ultimately, this is a battle that Google has to win. Ceding social media to Facebook is like Yahoo ceding search results to Google, and we know how that turned out. So with all that being said, it’s not surprising that +1 is just the start of a much larger Google social media initiative. Over the last few weeks I’ve learned a little about this new program, mostly from my AdWords reps, but also from a few inside sources I’m not about to reveal here.
The program, at least internally, is called Google KnowMe. Here’s how it will work. If you are like most people, Google has a lot of information about you. For example, the emails you write (Gmail), the places you go (Google Maps), your interests (Google Search), your schedule (Google Calendar), your credit card and purchases (Google Checkout), even the news you read (Google News). All of this is easily connected to you personally, because you need a Google account ID to use gmail, calendar, and checkout, or if you want to personalize your Google Reader or news page.
So Google can take all of this data and quite accurately predict how you might interact with your friends. For example, let’s say you are a big fan of the Iowa Hawkeyes (like me). A news story comes out that talks about the Hawkeye football team’s chances for the 2011-2012 season. Google knows you’ll like this story, and they know which friends you’ve emailed/chatted with in the past about college football. They can also use neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) to capture your unique writing style. The result is a social post that you didn’t write, but that you would have written if you had the time, or had seen the article. Here’s what it looks like:
Here’s another great example of how KnowMe is potentially better than Facebook. Let’s say I am planning on going to go to a concert next week and I’ve scheduled time in my calendar accordingly. KnowMe will automatically post an update to my profile with the details:
David Rodnitzky: Join me at the Kei$ha concert at Shoreline Amphitheatre next Saturday!
Perhaps most interesting about KnowMe – and probably most controversial – will be the ability to auto-reply to other people’s posts. Keep in mind that we’re talking about auto-replies to auto-posts – effectively an entire conversation can occur without any of the parties to the conversation participating.
Adam Rodnitzky: It is sunny here in San Francisco. Rock n’ Roll!
I think KnowMe really solves a major problem with social networking: the time commitment. If you think about the history of social media, KnowMe was really inevitable. What started with blogs (requires complex story structure and actual thinking) and then progressed to Facebook posts (snarky comments confined to two or three sentences at most) and has most recently turned into Twitter (140 characters max, so even monkeys can garner plenty of followers) can now be handled entirely by computers. No need to even spend time trying to remember your password, KnowMe will continue to post and reply on your behalf whether you are logged in or not.
If KnowMe does catch up as Google hopes, and I suspect it will, this opens up an entirely new world for social networking. Instead of people using computers to update their likes, interests, and favorite photos, people can instead spend their time going out and interacting directly with their friends – offline – comfortable in the knowledge that Google’s computers are handling all the social networking for them. I know that the concept of personal interaction with social contacts sounds futuristic, but I think Google may have finally made this possible.
Posted one day early.