After numerous criticisms of being Facebook's poor relative is Google+ about to realise it's potential with a full social layer?
I have long said that Google+ has a problem of perception; the social networking element has been thrust front and centre with little seeming to happen with regards to the promised social layer.
It is easy to understand why so many position Plus as a direct competitor to Facebook as they have no other frame of reference. That could be about to change.
Since before Plus was launched I have been advocating that a profiled based identity spanning the Google ecosystem, sharing your data and activities across the various services would be a great way to go but I also said that the company needed a destination in order to avoid becoming a social bit-part player.
We have the destination but little of the extended layer reaching out into other services.
YouTube and Picasa have seen some integration but the biggest strides , somewhat controversially, have been made in search with Search Plus Your Word bringing social to Google's core product. Not only do our SERPs include results direct from Google+ (indexed within seconds of being posted) but we can also directly ask our Circles for advice or their opinion directly from search I you don't find what you are looking for.
The company is extending on this by now providing the ability to follow people directly from search and even thank them for making a recommendation by adding +1s to content - taking the social interaction to another level:
Clicking the above leads to
So far so good for the core product but what about making plus useful elsewhere?
Rumours abound that Google could be launching its own commenting system, much like Facebook comments, that lets third-party sites hook directly into Google Plus in order to better facilitate a response to their content.
When it was suggested that Blogger could be rebranded to fit in with Plus I suggested a number of ways this could be done to make use of a social layer - an integrated commenting scheme was one of theme. I also said:
"If Plus effectively becomes a comment hosting system internally within Plus then there is nothing stopping Google from opening it up via API to other platforms à la Facebook comments in order to compete directly with those of the social network."
Feeding the monster
Google is not in the social game just for our benefit, it is out to collate as much data as it can and will embrace any opportunity for us to feed it in to Plus.
To achieve this effectively I believe Google has to move away from reliance upon the single destination that is Plus. The social layer must facilitate the flow of information both to and from the social network and a Google commenting system for external sites should be the first step in making this a reality and kick starting the social layer.