It's Google's world, and we're just living in it
Sitting at Google I/O last week, I witnessed a change. The company that I previously thought as growing specifically through acquisitions suddenly showed the ability to create very meaningful, highly strategic products that are redefining our industry. As a result, I believe Google will out-maneuver and outlast competitors like Facebook.
Here's why. The Google of old innovated by acquisition. Between 2010 and 2012 it acquired a staggering 63 companies, including social networking service fflick, Motorola Mobility, and instant messaging company meebo. But the Google that I saw at I/O appears to have meshed those acquisitions into a huge backbone platform that is redefining the company and its relationship with its users.
Years ago when companies relied on SEO as a source of traffic, we used to joke that we lived in a Google world. They defined the rules, and we played within their backyard. As Facebook emerged and mobile started redefining the landscape, it felt like we had lost our dependence on Google. And although their paid ad products and search remain core components to digital success, there were other options for those looking to gain traction for Internet products.
Today, Google has redefined their platforms. The change within the Google+ identity platform, for example, is probably one of the more fundamental changes in the last year. Google has, inside a large, multi-divisional corporation, created a universal identity layer, spreading across everything we do. As a result my Google+ identity follows me wherever I go, whether I’m on Google's Android platform, the Chrome browser, or interacting within the Google+ community. Ensuring consumers a singular, consistent online identity across all platforms guarantees customer loyalty.
By adding high value and expensive features like 11GB of photo storage, Google is now telling me that they’re committed to me as a customer and that they’re going to provide me with real value that over time becomes impossible for me to divorce myself from them. Between the address book (circles), email (gmail), photo (Google+), mobile (Android), and browser (Chrome), there is no escaping Google.
There was a time when I would describe Myspace as a community, where the core value was to connect with friends, and Facebook as a utility to help manage your online life. As time went on, Facebook positioned itself as a utility, ultimately stronger and representing a longer lifetime with a customer.
Today, I would describe Facebook as the community and Google as the utility. My Facebook stream is far more relevant than my Google+ stream, because my friends are more actively updating their content on FB than on Google+. My experience on Facebook is more personal, and I feel connected to that community within Facebook.
But Google has more or less told me that if I touch Android, if I touch Chrome, or if I store my photos, I am now part of the Google+ world. There are multiple entryways into here, and Google's attention to its platform ensures that I stay there.
It's sticky, but I'm not stuck. I like it there.