Google is organizing the world’s conversation
The reason for this is that I’m convinced that Google is putting the pieces in place not just to build a social media site, but to become a social media supernetwork.
Recent moves and acquisitions by Google make it clear that Google is not just focused on “organizing the world’s information”, as stated in their mission statement. It’s about organizing the world’s conversation.
The medium is the message
Marshall McLuhan was dead on when he said that “the medium is the message”. What he meant by that boiled down to the fact that the theory that the medium is more important than any message the medium conveys, because it’s the medium that changes our consciousness.
Google is changing how we communicate, and by doing that they change who we are.
But Google doesn’t even have a social media site…
Not yet, not exactly. But they have established a beachhead on an untold (but I think very, very, large) number of computers. This leads me to…
Google Toolbar: Google’s stealth social interface
Most social media sites, such as Digg, have created web browser toolbars to help their communities participate in their communities.
This is because the web browser is out primary gateway to the Web.
In Google’s case, the toolbar has come first. They’ve already got an established user base of many early adopters because the toolbar reports PageRank, Google’s estimation of the importance of a web page – something that most website owners care about and like to monitor.
And tellingly, Google just begun to mimic some of StumbleUpon’s functionality by enabling toolbar users to ‘browse” sites that Google thinks might be of interest to them. StumbleUpon has built a very successful community that is all centered on this fundamental activity using their toolbar. Use of the toolbar provides a very natural way to for their users to share and recommend websites.
To add to all of this, they’ve just made using the toolbar even more enticing as well, as now you can use it to record every site that you visit so that you can return to it at any time. Of course, for people that already use the toolbar – they’ve already been storing this data for some time and so this provides a frightening look at what’s on file for privacy minded folks.
Don’t buy it? When in doubt, follow the money…
Google is paying website owners $1 for each download that they can encourage of the Firefox browser with the bundled Google toolbar. This is quite a significant ongoing investment in making sure that Google’s has premier space built into as many user’s web browsers as possible.
This gives them a key competitor this gives them an installed base that Digg, StumbleUpon, MySpace or any other social media sites can only dream about.
Surely that toolbar must be critical to their future plans…
What does this mean for website owners?
Perhaps not much at the moment in practical terms, but at some point down the road your going to be scrambling for ways to get your content tagged in Google Toolbar, subscribed to in Google Reader, mentioned in Google Talk, emailed in Google Gmail, bookmarked in Google Bookmarks and added to people’s Google Web History.
So, my advice: Keep an eye on the conversation.
p.s. – I’d love to hear what any of you think about this. Am I being paranoid? I’d also be really interested in knowing what the installed base is of Google Toolbar — obviously Google must know as it stays in contact them. But I couldn’t find a press mention where they bragged about it, which I find odd, and perhaps a little troubling…