Now that the fence is starting to come down with Google+ and people are starting to flood in, everyone seems to be highly focused on how it functions, usability, and how it stacks up against facebook. However I would like to point out some very interesting observations:
1. There are no Advertisements
Now it foreseeable that they may start serving advertisements in the future on the Google+ platform, but I have a feeling that they won’t. As I will outline in my hypothesis.
2. They don’t ask for Personal Information
Facebook flat out asks you for your favorite books, political affiliations, and other information that would help them tailor advertisements to you. Google+ simply doesn’t.
It seems rather counter-intuitive to have a social platform that doesn’t try to gain as much information as possible from you. However, it would make perfect sense if it was about building a graph to figure out search results. When Google started you had websites linking to each other, and they used this knowledge as a way of building a proper grading system for websites. However with the rise of social, something else started happening; a new link structure formed. Susie shared with Bob who then shared with all his friends and so forth and so on.
Social Context Search Results Hypothesis
Apart from the fact that your +1 recommendations come up in Google Search Results to your friends, I believe they are using Google+ and social as a way of putting results into context. Everyone knows that tailored search results are the future, and some start ups such as Hunch are trying to capitalize on it. However, Google is approaching the problem differently. Instead of building a massive personal profile for every user they are going off of the assumption (or fact?) that like minded people flock together. Connecting all the various circles give you a massive amount of data for returning socially contextualized results. This is why they don’t have advertisements, or ask you for personal information. What they care about is the websites you are visiting, and who you are sharing those websites with.
Good or Bad?
Assuming my hypothesis is correct, I imagine there will be much debate that arises from Google doing such a thing. For instance, would this promote confirmation bias in the worst way possible? Will this contribute to the filter bubble? Who knows, but I imagine the term SSEO (Social Search Engine Optimization) will be a new buzz word very soon.