Everyone and their mother (or not their mother, according to Robert Scoble) is talking (and tweeting and posting and blogging) about Google+. The platform is fascinating, and I can’t seem … to … pry … my … fingers ….away from it. However, what is most interesting to me is how Google approached innovation to arrive at G+.
Google has constantly chased its tail by attempting to replicate Facebook’s model to integrate the social graph into their functionality. Whether its Buzz or +1, we see that Google constantly falls short.
Finally, however, Google quit trying to copy Facebook (thank God) and took a different, innovative approach. They followed their own original opinions by considering first how a social network ought to be designed, led by Paul Adams over a year ago. Adams worked on the Google+ project as social research lead in the UX team through the end of 2010, when he then, interestingly, joined Facebook.
In “Don’t Focus on Technology. Focus on Behavior,” Adams (@Padday) outlines that the way we interact online and offline are not seamless and implies that the leading social networks (e.g. Facebook) are awkward – that they don’t fundamentally meet our social needs or operate intuitively according to the way we interact as social beings. He contests that social networks in real life don’t overlap the way they’re designed to online. He uses the example of a swim instructor who is friends with her students on Facebook. She wants to share pictures on Facebook, but she only wants it to go to some people (i.e. her friends, not her students). Does she ignore her students’ friend requests?
Adams will be remembered in history as an original curator of a theory of the fundamental definition of the “social network,” and his bird’s eye view of social (unconstrained by the leading model in place, i.e. Facebook) is transformative and rare.
How much better it would have been if Google had courageously adopted this innovative approach long ago, instead of replicating another model. Unfortunately, the only reason they resorted to finding their own model is that copying the leading model simply didn’t work. However, I commend them for realizing they were not succeeding and taking a different direction to lead with innovation first, not replication.
I hope it’s not too late.
To learn more, visit Paul Adams’ post about Google+: “This is just the beginning” and Google blog’s post on Google+: “Introducing the Google+ project: Real-life sharing, rethought for the web.”