Google still trying to make social media tools

Google+ Circles need work. Granted it’s in beta, but what is missing shows a clear lack of understanding by Google Developers on the users of social networking platforms. This isn’t surprising though as their track record with social media has been a bumpy road.

Google has done a lot of things very well. They launched a search engine in 1997 that changed the way we find information. Between 2000 and 2003 we saw the launch of Google AdWords and AdSense, which gave many websites some coin in their purse. In 2004 they gave us Gmail, a free unlimited email and over the years it has allowed it’s users to utilize its web interface, POP3 or IMAP functionality. All great technical achievements.

Unfortunately, Google’s development team doesn’t seem to understand social media, and maybe even the basics of human interaction. In 2004 Google launched Orkut, which is still popular in Brazil according to Wikipedia. Orkut was a social networking service that’s interface was very similar to Bebo and Hi5, which have now become little more than obscure social gaming sites. While it currently resembles MySpace without the customized pages ability, it lacks any niche, such as MySpace’s musician base.

In 2009 Google Wave came and went with barely a spark. Like Orkut, the product was never pushed and few people outside of the social media development interests groups knew or cared about it. Barely a year later Google stirred up some Buzz, which seemed to try and combine the likes of Twitter with their Gmail service and ended up just alienating users of Gmail and causing a series of privacy concerns to spring up.

And now we have Google+, which is definitely the company’s best attempt yet at making a decent social networking platform. For the most part Google+ is a clone of Facebook, though with the standard minimalist Google interface. You have a Stream which works like your Wall, Hangouts which work like Groups, and Sparks which work like Interest’s Pages and everyone can now utilize the Google +1 buttons just like the Facebook Like button. The only real difference is Google’s Circles, which are a great idea, but implemented poorly.

What’s my gripe?

Having to manually sort through all of your contacts and drag them into Circles is functional, but if I am already using Gmail and have multiple contact lists set up, it should be a no brainer that I be provided an option to convert the contact lists into Circles. This is especially annoying for people like me who may have several hundred contacts. Likewise, there should be a better way to manage contacts if I want to pull in lists from Orkut, Wave, and Buzz. And what about Fans and Followers from YouTube – does no one think about big picture expandability and application synergy at Google?

Another issue I have is that to make a suggestion to the Google Development team I’m linked to Google+’s Facebook page – no really, I’m supposed to use the number one social networking site to offer suggestions on how to make a competing social networking site better.

While Google announced they are rebranding Picasa and Blogger soon, Google quickly has made itself a jumble of tools that all share some mediocre interactions with each other but ultimately are an awkward and tangled web of applications. And what of my Google Profile, the public info that is supposed to be the umbrella of my Google experience, what will become of that?

All in all it’s clear Google is trying very hard to get into social media, but the developers at Google are apparently just not savvy when it comes to the social interactions of human beings. They’d be better off looking to gather input from young non-college graduates instead of relying on their technically brilliant, but clearly socially retarded programmers.

While I have a less than favorable view of their new service currently, as a Gmail, Checkout, AdWords, AdSense, YouTube, Picasa, Google Search and Chrome user I hope they’ll take the Facebook suggestions to heart and improve their service, though given their track record of releasing interesting social media related tools and ignoring them, means I won’t be holding my breath.

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