What would Google be hoping to achieve by introducing its own commenting system? Is there an altruistic motivation or merely a need to take a slice of the commenting pie?
Jon Mitchell over at ReadWriteWeb fired me a tweet after my post yesterday about a possible Google commenting system saying he had just submitted one that disagreed with me.
His post "Why Google+ wont fix the comment problem" argues that by introducing its own tool to compete with Facebook comments, Disqus, Livefyre, et al. Google will not improve the commenting problems we frequently see despite its best intentions.
Just as Plus was introduced with the tag line "Sharing is broken" you can almost hear any Google+ based system being sold with "Comments are broken" - a true statement but not one the company would be advised to use.
Somebody else's problem
What problem would Google actually be trying to solve with its own commenting system? Would Google be altruistic and try to fix comments for the whole of the open web? Hardly, that is probably impossible and is somebody else's problem.
Google would instead be trying to get more engagement, more data and more "active users" on Google+ to bolster existing efforts.
Reasons to be cheerful
Jon highlights a number of reasons why a commenting system that hooks directly into Plus might be of advantage:
- almost instant indexing for Google search, the potential SEO boost is huge
- Google has a great spam filter reducing the need to moderate manually
- the What's Hot system on Plus could potentially highlight a popular conversation to a much wider audience
- comment threads will be "stickier" - there is generally much better interaction on Plus for smaller blogs linking to Plus could encourage extra traffic and, with the use of the red notification box, contributors could be easily pulled back once more comments are added
For those who haven't already replaced their native commenting system these could be very persuasive reasons to adopt.
Any commenting system based on Plus would, logically, be implemented in-house first meaning that millions of Blogger blogs would either have the option to switch or, as is more likely the case, be switched over automatically if they haven't implemented an alternative solution. Certainly, all new blogs created at Blogger would have this turned on by default. As I posted before, this could immediately kick-start the full implementation of the elusive social layer.
Google+ could potentially see a huge uptick in interaction by doing this if even only a fraction of blogs, and consequently commenters, used the system.
There would have to be scope for those who do not have Plus accounts but there could also be an incentive to sign up to Plus the first time you comment at a site using Google's system (just as you are given the option of creating a Disqus or Livefyre account) thus increasing account numbers without users ever needing to visit Plus itself.
Google has been criticised for its vague reporting of active users due to including those who have used a "Google+ enhanced product" but may not have necessarily visited the actual social network. Prepare for further controversy.
Just as Facebook counts anyone who clicked a Like button on a third-party site an active user so Google will be able to classify anyone who leaves a blog comment an active user of Plus. Because this commenting system will inject content into Plus this is perfectly understandable and could swell the reported figures enormously.
Can we fix it?
Google may not be able, or even trying, to fix the problems with comments on the open web (even if their system was portrayed as a way to do so) but could instantly fix the problems of gaining more interaction, data and active users.
Plus needs to shake the stigma of being " just another social network" and, like a caterpillar, emerge from the chrysalis of its social layer.
Why not discuss this post on Google+
Image by amanky