Google may have retired Buzz but the search giant has asserted its commitment to Google+, its latest social project, for the long haul.
Bradley Horowitz, VP of product management at Google+, said the strategy for Plus is very different from earlier Google social products such as Buzz, Wave, and Orkut. “Google+ is not a product. It’s a reinvention of Google,” he told journalists at a media conference in Hong Kong.
The priority for Google+ is to get people already using Google products such as search, Gmail, and YouTube to build profiles of their identities and make it easier for them to carry over their interests and relationships across the silos.
Since Google+ launched in June, it has grown exponentially in the past few months and boasts 40 million users.
However, Horowitz did not share additional engagement stats or user patterns of these Google+ users. He also dismissed external reports on Google+ traffic and usage. “Every report I have read has been wildly wrong, they do not have the same dashboards we have,” he said.
With the huge usage numbers, Horowitz said Google is not worried about competition. He added that the social platform’s core feature – circles that allow individuals to segment their relationships with people – is the real differentiation.
Unlike other social platforms, Google+ has no intention to offer advertising but will unveil brand pages soon.
Thousands of brands have shown interest on Google+ but Horowitz did not give an exact date when brand profiles will roll out except to say that they are “very close to launching”, most likely before the end of this year.
He did not disclose what features brand profiles will offer but hinted that they will be designed for ‘non-human entities’ to allow local businesses for instance, to post their locations, operating hours, and whether they accept credit cards or not.
And these Google+ brand profiles will be free so any brand can come and claim their pages, he added.
Making Search More Social and the +1 Button
Google also plans to integrate social search in Google+ so that a user gets more personalized results that will enable them to see what their friends think or when they recommend a search result. It can even extend to searching for a demographic segment or neighborhood close to the user.
Currently the +1 button will not affect ranking or placement in search results, but internal studies have shown it will affect click-through rate. For example, when a user endorses the result through +1, the person connected to the user will be more likely to click on it even if that happens to be the eighth result in the search engine, Horowitz explained.
In the longer run, it is possible that the +1 button may impact ranking determined by the algorithm approach that will change search ranking to reflect that but Horowitz said this will only be one of many social signals.
International markets are important to Google+; it is available in 41 languages. But Google has no intention to localize the social platform. Its strategy is to build a universal platform and let communities localize their activities and content.
“We want our product to be for humanity,” Horowitz said.
He added that they do not yet know of a specific need or features on Google+ that need to be localized for certain markets.
As for China, Horowitz said he can’t personally speak to a strategy there as it includes outside market forces. Google+ also has plans for enterprise support and whether it will be a revenue generator is to be decided.