It’s common currency in internet punditry circles that Google won the battle to dominate search while Facebook won the battle for social, and that Google+ is just a failed competitor to Facebook. But Google hasn’t given up.
It has been clear for a while now that, to make up for the fact that not very many people actively use Google+ as a social network, Google is turning it into a platform on which the rest of Google’s web services are evolving—something that has the effect of making people use Google+ by default. Results from Google+ already clutter search results. YouTube’s commenting system has been replaced by Google+. Chat and Talk, once stand-alone services, were combined into Hangouts and incorporated into Google+.
In a revealing interview with the Indian business newspaper Mint, Steve Grove, a Google+ exec who inks deals with content providers and influential figures, makes it clear that this is just the beginning. Grove tells Mint that “the reason for that is that Google+ is kind of like the next version of Google.”
Why? According to Grove:
There’s a lot of great value here, because Search also shows results from Google+ and this is going to bring more people into Google+; people are going to see that there’s a lot of value in logging into our services, before doing a search.
We’ve written before about how Facebook’s strategy for getting users in emerging markets is to convince people new to the internet that Facebook basically is the internet. Google’s strategy looks a bit like the obverse of this: convince people already on the internet that the internet runs on Google+.
But when you look at it longer-term, Google’s strategy is actually very similar to Facebook’s. New internet users, such as the hundreds of millions expected to come online in India in the coming years, will find that being on Google’s social network is increasingly a prerequisite for using Google’s other services. Roping those new users into Google+ from the get-go is the company’s best chance for coming from behind and defeating Facebook’s dominance in social media. And that clearly seems to be Google’s goal, given how much effort it’s pouring into the network. “We focused a lot on Google+ here [in India], and it’s already very active, and people are getting on board on their own,” Grove said.