Will Google+ replace blogging?

Start a Blog With Google+Blogs have been around nearly as long as as the web itself. With the rise of Google+ and the features it offers some have asked, “Will Google+ replace blogging?”

The Internet has of course been around for quite some time, but it wasn’t until the 1990’s when Marc Andreessen and the NCSA team developed the Mosaic browser (and then commercialized it into Netscape) that the web as we know it today began to take shape.

By 1995 the web made the jump to the public from college, corporate, and scientific institutions because services like Compuserve, American Online, and Prodigy started to provide simple ways for end users to get onto the web. Almost immediately people began creating their own content: personal sites, online diaries, and archives of links to things they found interesting. Being able to do so required technical knowledge though, as the sites were either hand coded or created on their own custom framework. By the end of the 1990’s hosted blogging and tools for content creation became easier appeared in the form Open Diary, LiveJournal, and Blogger. Since then we’ve seen the rise of WordPress, Google bought and expanded Blogger, micro-blogging in the form of Twitter and Tublr popped up, and podcasts and video blogging took off. As of 16 February 2011, there were over 156 million public blogs in existence. One thing is clear: we love to create and share content.

A few posts by our own +Sai Kishore got me thinking about the impact of Google+ on blogging. As Sai pointed out:

Plus’ inherent design makes it a site where you can engage & interact more. The techies have got it. Most believe that G+ is the coolest addition to the social networking arena, perhaps ever. Big names like Kevin RoseMike Elgan, and many others have made Google+ their only way of sharing content with people, by bidding goodbye to their blogs.

In a later post, Sai describes how Google+ is generating a lot of excellent content, but that content is getting lost in the ‘stream’. In other words, someone posts something great on Google+ but a short time later that content has been pushed so far down our stream that we lose visibility of it; and in turn it’s lost it’s value. Sai then goes on to wonder about a way this might be possible:

If Blogger gets integrated into G+, we might find in the profile of a person, an extra tab beside ‘Posts’, ‘About’, ‘Photos’, ‘Videos’; called ‘BloG+’ (As far as I know, ‘BloG+’ is a term coined by +Ryan Crowe). Just imagine, how sexy would it be to maintain your own blog besides curating interesting, super cool content written by people on G+ (that’s including you, curating your own content, wow!) on your blog.

I’ve been creating content on the Internet since the late 90’s. I started my first blog (as we know them today) on my now defunct Huggybeer.com domain in 2001, and by the end of 2002 I‘d started on what has evolved into PaulSpoerry.com, my personal blog that I still post on today. My site is a mix of what’s on my mind, cool content that I personally enjoy and want to be able to share with friends and capture for myself. The idea of being able to curate both my own content and the content that others post on Google+ was immediately appealing to me.

Google certainly has a diverse array of services that if integrated into Google+ COULD make this appealing: YouTube for video sharing, Picassa for images, events could be managed and displayed via Google Calendar, and heck Google Docs integration could mean not only an easy way to share your docs but to allow collaboration with a wider audience. We’ve already seen YouTube integration with Google+ Hangouts and I certainly believe that every item listed above could (and probably will) be incorporated into the social network.

BloG+ would be limiting solution

Integrating Blogger into Google+ could be done, but after spending some time considering it, I don’t think it’s the best move for Google OR bloggers. From Google’s perspective the more users it has the better, but not everyone will use Blogger. Here are some of the reasons I believe that professional bloggers, corporations, and many tech savvy bloggers would shy away from a BloG+ solution:

  • Blogger cannot be self-hosted; that simple fact significantly reduces the number of blogs on the playing field.
  • Lacks complete control of theme/branding
  • You won’t own your own database
  • Integration with your existing sites/web properties could be messy at best, and impossible at worst
  • If Google holds all the content you’d have to consider privacy, security, and Intellectual Property rights
  • Link Equity – Google has really put forth an awesome effort (via Takeout) to allow you to Download Your Data. But if Google+ goes the way of MySpace/Geocities/etc, or if you decide to move to another platform, then you’ve lost your link equity.
  • Last but not least: advertising revenue. Yes, I know Google has AdSense and they could integrate that as well. They could implement revenue sharing and it could be lucrative, but keep in mind that AdSense isn’t the only game in town and a lot of people won’t want to share their ad revenue.

So yes, Blogger integration could allow end users to curate information from Google+, and share content from Blogger to Google+, but it leaves a MASSIVE volume of content out there that has to be “re-shared” into Google+. I’m not arguing that it’s a bad idea; in fact for many it could be a wickedly more powerful version of Facebook’s neglected “Notes” functionality. It could be extremely useful for the casual user.

BloG+ API on the other hand… now we’re talking big picture

Make no mistake, Google will build more API’s into Google+. Picassa and YouTube are already integrating with it; we have the +1 button (but note those are all GOOGLE properties used by Google). We’ve recently seen games released for Google+. Games could remain something unique though, as developers of games may want to keep users tied into a specific platform, a la the Facebook walled garden model, and not want Google to open that up. Why? Google takes a significantly smaller share of revenue from developers than Facebook… so game devs would want the user to continue playing, and buying virtual goods, on Google+ only.

Google will make their social graph a two way street for developers though. It has a history of pushing and leveraging open ‘social’ web standards. They released the first version of OpenSocial in 2007 as a competitor to Facebook’s Open Graph protocol. OpenSocial 2.0 was finalized on August 18th and one of it’s main features is Activity Streams support; it also supports OAuth 2 – which will allow users to authorize one ‘social site’ to access another ‘social site’.

So what’s better than integrating Blogger into Google+? Integrating the WEB into Google+. Creating tools, hooks, and API’s into Google+ that will allow any blog to simply integrate into Google+. On the surface that sounds trivial, after all we can easily posts status updates to Facebook right? While that is true, how many ‘long form’ posts have you ever seen on Facebook?

If Google makes it easy to integrate your blog into the Google+ ecosystem then you’re blog becomes an extension of Google+. As you push and pull content in and out of Google+ it becomes inherently more social, and so does your website.

  • Users might not rely on RSS as often, but instead add you to their circle and follow along that way.
  • Posting to, or saving posts from Google+ could just be the start (thought that’s what I’m most immediately interested in – can I get the ability to “share to Reader” on G+ PLEASE?!).
  • Real integration means no more filling out forms to post a comment on another site; you’re authorized already- and Google seems to be intent on verified real names. With two-way integration comments made on your blog could also display on it’s brother-post on Google+.
  • How about self-hosted circles? When someone comments on one of your articles, they could authorize your site to indicate that they are interested in that type of information (let’s say the post was about cars; your site could put them in your ‘car lover’ circle), and from then on you could create posts that target specific audiences. Heck, it could help fine tune relevant information that displays in Sparks when you log onto Google+.
  • With a Hangouts API you could host Hangouts on your site that are only available to your users.

Unlike Facebook, Google isn’t concerned with being THE central hub that you visit. While it may appear they’re attempting to clone Facebook in a social arms race I don’t believe that’s really the case. Their mission statement is “to organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Their business model is targeted advertising. Google+ is just one more way to do that.

I believe Blogger will get integration with Google+, but so will everyone else. Exposing the power of Google+ via API’s and then unleashing the developer community on it presents a much more interesting, powerful, and expansive set of possibilities for both Google and bloggers alike. Google+ could represent the next step in social by becoming a social backbone that not only Blogger authors benefit from, but so do those of WordPress, Tumblr, and any other platform that leverages it’s API.

Will Google+ replace blogging? No… it will extend and empower it by providing a social platform with open integration.

Article originally written for Plusheadlines.

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