Google’s Brin Initially Thought Google+ Circles Feature Was Too Complicated
By Juan Carlos Perez
Sergey Brin initially considered the Circles content-sharing mechanism on Google+ to be too complicated, but after he started using the site he changed his mind and now thoroughly enjoys using the company’s social networking site.
“As a user I’m very pleased with the results,” Brin said at the Web 2.0 Summit, where he answered questions from conference co-chairman John Battelle and audience members.
Social networking sites, including Google’s Orkut, were never attractive for Brin, mostly because he never felt comfortable with their content sharing models, he said.
Google+, launched in late June, will play a key role in the company’s ongoing efforts to unify the many Google products and brands into a uniform look and experience, he said.
Coming soon to Google+ will be some features the company has been criticized for not having in the product, including integration with the Google Apps cloud-hosted communication and collaboration suite.
“That fix is imminent, in a matter of days,” said Vic Gundotra, a Google engineering senior vice president who joined Brin on stage.
Coming also “imminently” but not in a matter of days are Google+ profiles for companies to promote their products and brands, Gundotra said, adding that the company was “overwhelmed” by the level of interest for this.
Another feature Google+ will eventually gain is the ability for users to set up profiles using pseudonyms. Currently, Google+ members must use their real names, a policy that has been criticized by many who feel that anonymity is sometimes justified on the Web.
Asked about a blistering and embarrassing memo that a Google engineer inadvertently posted publicly on Google+ criticizing the site harshly, Gundotra acknowledged that the incident was unpleasant and hurtful to him and the rest of the Google+ team.
The engineer, Steve Yegge, called Google+ “a knee-jerk reaction, a study in short-term thinking” in large part because it lacks a strong developer platform.
An Open Corporate Culture
Gundotra said that, internally, Google fosters a culture in which employees are encouraged to be open with their opinions and critical of the company’s efforts, so the content of Yegge’s memo wasn’t so much the issue as the fact that it was broadcast to the world and reported broadly in the media. “We never like to see that,” he said.
However, Gundotra said that Google is deliberately being careful and conservative in designing and rolling out APIs (application programming interfaces) and tools for developers to create applications for Google+. The developer strategy is still being worked out and Google doesn’t want to prematurely release tools and then have to significantly modify them or remove them altogether, he said.
Brin, meanwhile, said jokingly that he didn’t get “beyond the first 1,000 pages” of Yegge’s memo, referring to the document’s length, and advised people to be more concise in their writing. “Sometimes I use [Yegge’s memo] as a nighttime aide,” Brin said.
As CEO and co-founder Larry Page said recently at the company’s third-quarter earnings release, Brin and Gundotra said they were very satisfied with the fact that Google+ now has more than 40 million members and that almost 3.5 billion photos have been uploaded to the site.
In a meeting with reporters after appearing on stage, Gundotra said that Google is far from declaring Google+ a sure success, saying that the site is at a very early stage of development and that the company envisions multiple years of work before it will consider whether the site has met its lofty expectations.
For example, the plan is to let Google+ users apply the Circles they have created for sharing different content with different groups to other Google sites, he said.
“When we’re done, Google is going to come across as a beautifully integrated set of services,” Gundotra said.
“Google+ will touch every aspect of Google,” he added.
Asked whether they envision Google+ and Facebook co-existing, with people using both for different purposes, both Brin and Gundotra said yes.
People have been using a variety of online services for communicating and sharing content for years, including blog publishing sites like Google’s Blogger, e-mail services, photo and video sharing sites, and the like, they said.