Facebook is soooooo over, says Bradley Horowitz, Google VP of product for Google+. It’s just not set up for the way people really want to interact, i.e. having conversations with a few friends rather than broadcasting it to their whole network of “friends.” And those ads? Oh, puh-lease. They’re not exactly relevant to anything you want or need when you see them. Where’s the context?
And that’s how smack talk works in the tech world. (What? You thought it was limited to sports teams and comment trolls?) Horowitz called out the social network as being a thing of the past, pointing out how Google+ lets such issues inform the way they design the service: “In designing Google+, we keep thinking about the real world, the way people actually are. We’re trying to make a product that’s ergonomic for the way our attention is wired.”
Among Google+’s linchpins are “Circles,” which allows users to designate certain groups of friends for more targeted sharing, and “Hangouts,” a free group video chat feature. (Side note: If you haven’t tried Hangouts yet, you totally should. It’s awesome.)
But what really seems to stick in Horowitz’ craw are those advertisements. “Jamming ads and agendas into user streams is pissing off users and frustrating brands too,” he said. “That’s not the way the world works.” He has a point. When you’re hungry, a billboard or commercial for hamburgers is incredibly effective. But when you’re not hungry or have already eaten, it’s annoying to see food ads blasting you in the face. Google’s approach, however, is to serve up recommendations — not ads — from people you know when you’re actually hungry. Like, say, when you’re searching for restaurants.
It’s not surprising that Horowitz thinks Facebook ads are unseemly or even sloppy. Google+ doesn’t use them, at least not yet. That could change someday, but only if they could do it effectively and without irritating users, said Horowitz. In the meantime, “we aren’t struggling with how to monetize,” he added. “We have real plans.”
Whatever those plans are, they’ve managed to carry Google+ to a growing userbase. While still not in the same league as Facebook, it’s still pretty good for a fledgling social network. In September, the figure was 100 million monthly users, and now it’s upwards of 400 million.
While Google stretches itself into social networking, and Facebook, in turn, sets its sights on search, one thing is extremely likely: The smack talk is probably only just beginning.