In what amounted to a “State of Google Plus” talk today, Google’s Bradley Horowitz said “we need to improve,” hinted at some features that may be in Google’s pipeline and called Facebook’s new sharing controls “familiar.”
Horowitz, the VP of Product for Google Plus, spoke to Tim O’Reilly during an hour-long, live webcast conversation that served to preview the upcoming Strata Summit. A recording appears to still be viewable on the conference website.
His comments came just a couple hours after Facebook announced a series of new privacy controls that many immediately said are reminiscent of Google+. And Horowitz said basically the same thing when asked about Facebook’s announcement:
“I think it’s good for users, which is exciting for us. What they did was … familiar, and good for users.”
Some of Facebook’s new features are similar to Google+, such as the ability to more easily control the privacy/sharing of individual updates and pieces of content and the ability to view your own profile as others see it.
But the webcast conversation was really about Google+ and some of its early ups and downs. Here’s a recap of some of the topics that Horowitz addressed:
Identity & Real Names
Horowitz and O’Reilly had a fairly long exchange on the issue of identity and, more specifically, Google’s insistence that Google+ users have real names. It’s a policy that has impacted several groups of users — from individuals to brands and beyond. Horowitz admitted that he and Google VP Vic Gundotra have taken a lot of heat on this issue, but they’re not ignorant to why anonymity matters.
“I understand pseudonymity and anonymity. Those are use cases that we don’t need be educated about; I understand the important of this for the internet culture.”
He went on to say that Google has gotten it wrong in some specific cases involving users that appeared to have non-real, generic names. “We need to improve” that process, he admitted. And he went further, saying that Google is working on a way to allow anonymity inside Google+:
“There’s no moral opposition to that happening. We want to let them in in a way that’s great for the whole community. It’s a high priority.”
Brands & Enterprise Users
Horowitz also spoke about Google’s policy that currently bars brands/companies from using Google+:
“We’ve kicked out tens of thousands of brands that have wanted to get into the service. Would I love to have Starbucks? I’d love to. [But] we want the experience to be good for the brands, the people that want to follow them and the people that don’t.”
He also admitted that Google has frustrated “millions” of its own paying customers — the people and companies that are using Google Apps. “That’s a huge patch of of users and they’re the last people we want to frustrate.”
Horowitz said Google is working to solve the frustrations of those groups.
“The reason is that we have covenants and expectations with the administrators about how the data is stored, whether it will be public or private — we want to get those right, so the product is consistent with the promises we’ve made.”
Hints About The Future Of Google+
Throughout the conversation, there were several hints about new features and services that might be added to Google+ in the future. As you’d expect, Horowitz didn’t share a ton of specifics or a timeframe for any of this, but here’s a list of some of the things mentioned today:
APIs: Horowitz reiterated Google’s intention to open up more APIs so that Google+ can become a platform in much the same way that Facebook and other social networks have. “We’ll do that over time and probably in stages – we’ll release read APis before write APIs,” he said. That would allow, for example, users to manage their Google+ stream via third-party clients in much the same way that many do with Twitter, Facebook, and so forth.
Twitter integration: Horowitz was open to the idea of Google+ users being able to send updates/content to other services. O’Reilly specifically asked about Twitter integration. “Users should own their data and if I want my data to land in another service, conceptually that should be possible. We’ll get there,” Horowitz said.
Hangouts: Horowitz seemed to suggest that Google is interested in allowing hangouts to extend beyond the current 10-person limit. He also spoke fondly of a user-generated idea for debate-style hangouts, in which individuals have timed speaking slots.
Threaded comments: These are “probably a good idea,” Horowitz said.
He wrapped up the conversation with a pretty grand statement about Google’s plans for Google+, saying there will be “new, unexpected features that will be really significant in changing the center of gravity of the product, and will change how people think of the service entirely.”
That’s a pretty heavy prediction, but it’s reminiscent of what Eric Schmidt said last month about plans to have Google+ power all Google products. For more background on many of the topics mentioned above, be sure to read the “related entries” listed below.