Is Google just flipping burgers?

# Long time internet acquantance Ryan Brymer added a thought provoking comment to my last post which I felt deserved a full response:

“is there a place for new social networking sites?”

In a way, Facebook has really cornered the market on this – worldwide. There will always be a Burger King to every McDonald’s, but what we see growing more in retail and food is the niche. Could the same be true of Social Media?

If my goal were to corner the market on cheap, quick hamburgers, no bank in their right mind would give me money. It seems foolish to go in and try to compete in the worldwide social media market… even if your name is Google.

What I want to explore is the relevance and adopt-ability of localized, specified, social networking tools.

Before the launch of Google+ I wrote that Facebook owned social. That was then, this is now: the landscape has been changed.

So, is there a place for new social networking services? Definitely.


What we currently see as Google+ is merely the beginning and, even then, some mistake the service for just its most visible component: the Stream. We are so used to the concept of status updates that it is too early to fully understand where social can go.

Back when we were playing the guessing game about whether existed and what it was going to be I asked if it was, in fact, a concept and not a social network. Well, the last month has told us that it is both. We have the instantly recognisable Stream and sharing components but we also have the promise of a much wider integration with Plus also providing that, oft mentioned, social layer for other services.

We have the Picasa tie-in and a degree of integration with Youtube, the upcoming social gaming and rumours of a Q&A service (Google Questions) to rival Quora - not to mention my previous comments on the possible ways the Blogger blogging platform could be integrated.

Plus will be far more than a stream and much greater than the sum of its parts.

Micro or Macro?

Ryan would like to see more "targeted social" and I would argue that, with search and topic based categorisation as an extension to circles, Plus could almost become all things to all people. Google needs to move beyond just circles which have been criticised as limited and Fridge (specialising in online group management) is the perfect acquisition to do this.

By effectively grouping with enhanced controls we can make Plus work for us.

Analysts predicted that location based services would explode and be the next big thing. We have seen growth with Foursquare and Facebook Places (Google are also steadily improving the functionality on offer with their incarnation of Places) and local deals with the likes of Groupon but we are still waiting for that explosion.

I would, therefore, be inclined to ask if location - and any specific topic - is actually too niche to form the basis of something on its own?

Flipping burgersGoogle is not just trying to get in to the burger flipping business and be the Burger King to Facebook's McDonalds. Instead it wants to be the mall that holds the burger bars, the chinese & italian restaurants, steak house and supermarket.

Google wants to think big by enabling us all to think small in different ways, within the same framework but - because of groups and circles - overlaping only as much or as little as we want. Whether we want to be hyper-local or global, niche or generic, a proper framework within a "container" environment could serve as home to all.

Ning tried to be such a framework, a place where we could all build our own targeted networks but it stopped there with each individual network being an isolated island in the social ocean, disconnected from the outside world. Google+ enables us to have our islands with their own populations but build bridges between each of them and even the outside world should we so desire.

The bottom line

Obviously, this is not all the result of benevolence on Google's part, they are not simply creating a creche within the mall for us all to play in but, if they can convince us to play in their creche and let them know what toys we like, they will have the perfect opportunity to sell us new ones.

Image by Osei

  1. Ryan Brymer says: #
    my response grew too lengthy. convinced me to really write something. thanks for that. see response here rb
  2. Colin says: #
    Ryan, thanks again for your comments. It's really good when people bounce ideas off each other - it's the best way for us to progress. Yes, Google+ - or indeed any other service - is not there yet but I think that Plus has great potential. It will take a company the size of a Google or a Facebook with a wide reach to really build the social web of the future (FB tried before with Facebook Connect) but it will require a bit of bravery to go the extra mile. Both companies are looking to expand identity beyond their own ecosystems which will be necessary. We may not be there yet but the journey will be interesting if nothing else.

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