A Hint of What Google’s Social Network Might Look Like?

Google is becoming more social on a number of levels, but really doesn’t have a central hub where those social interactions can all be seen at once. That may change in the future, and a new patent application from Google shows an example interface that such a system might use. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Twitter seeing this screenshot from the patent filing:

A screenshot from the patent showing messages, snippets, and updates from a number of people in a twitter like view

Another look shows icons that indicate a wider range of status updates and snippets and notifications that might be available:

The same view as in the image above, except a number of icons indicating different messaging options is revealed

Google already has worked social features into many of their offerings. Some of the pieces of Google’s somewhat distributed social network include:

  • Google latitude – Allows you to find your friends on a map and share your location with the friends you choose
  • Google Buzz – Sharing real time status updates, messages, and multimedia
  • Google Reader RSS Newsfeed Reader that allows you to share items with others
  • Google Places – The sharing of recommendations and reviews for places that Google tested under the name “Google Hotpot” has been merged into Google Places
  • Blogger – Enables you to start and maintain a blog quickly and easily, comment on other blogs, and “track” favorite blogs
  • Orkut – A social networking and discussion site
  • Gmail – Email program
  • Picasa Web Albums – photo sharing site
  • Google My Maps – Enables you to create your own personalized maps and share them and collaborate upon them with others
  • Google Talk chat via text, voice, and video
  • YouTube Upload videos, comment, favorite, like, befriend, create playlists and interact with others
  • Google My Library – Build a library, annotate it, and share it with friends
  • Google Docs – An online office productivity suite that allows people to share and collaborate on word processing documents, presentations, and spreadsheets
  • Google Friend Connect – Enables people to add social widgets and features to their websites
  • Google Knol – wikis that can be published by individuals or as collaborative efforts
  • Google Panoramio – Photo sharing involving posting images of specific places where pictures can be incorporated into Google Earth
  • Google Profiles – A page to share more information about yourself with others
  • Google Sidewiki – Enables people to annotate and comment on any page on the Web and share those annotations with others who can rate and respond to them
  • Google Sites – Enables you to create public or private web sites that can be collaborative efforts
  • Google +1 Button – Allows you to “like” a result that you see in Google Search Results pages, and let others who are connected to you to see your vote. These buttons may become available for placement on web sites in the future.

The Google patent filing describes a hub and corresponding user interface for social interaction, and possibly may include an availability indicator that would show whether other parties are available for interaction. The patent filing is:

Social Messaging User Interface
Invented by Christopher D. Nesladek, Jeffrey W. Hamilton, Jeffrey A. Sharkey. Prasenjit Phukan
Assigned to Google
US Patent Application 20110099486
Published April 28, 2011
Filed: October 28, 2010

Abstract

Hubs for social interaction via electronic devices are described.

In one aspect, a data processing device includes a display screen displaying a social interaction hub, the social interaction hub including a collection of records. Each record includes a counterparty identifier identifying a counterparty of a past social interaction event, a mode indicium identifying a mode by which the past social interaction event with the counterparty occurred, and a collection of mode indicia each identifying a mode by which a future, outgoing social interaction event with the counterparty can occur.

The counterparty identifier, the mode indicium, and the collection of mode indicia are associated with one another in the records of the social interaction hub.

There’s been a lot of talk from Google in the past few months about becoming more social, though as can be seen from my list above, Google does have a lot of social elements already available.

Chances are that we may see some kind of social hub come from the search engine in the future that may help centralize many of their social features.

It’s possible that it may take on an appearance like the one shown in this patent filing, but we won’t know for certain until Google’s ready to bring their social pieces together in one place as one Google social network.

The patent filing’s description and screenshots don’t seem to integrate as many of Google’s present social features together as I might like to see, based upon what Google already offers, including things like personalized My Maps.

What do you think might end up in a Google social hub?

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61 thoughts on “A Hint of What Google’s Social Network Might Look Like?”

  1. Social networking will be Google’s Vietnam… mark my words. They, as applies to Facebook, should keep with the winning formula – being the best at what THEY do. Can’t be all things to all people…

  2. Hi Matt,

    In many ways Google is already pretty social. Can they pull the different pieces together in a way that attracts users?

    I thought it was pretty interesting too, that the images they chose to use showed an interface for mobile devices. I do think that was on purpose.

  3. Can they pull the pieces together in a way that attracts users and doesn’t remind them of Google Buzz privacy problems? I think their mobile intentions are pretty cool as well, but many people are probably going to be a little cautious, at least at first.

  4. The big issue with Buzz out of the gate was definitely the privacy concerns associated with pairing it with Gmail, and that the people whom you email and chat with were automatically added as followers and visible to anyone who viewed your buzz profile until and unless you turned that off when setting up Buzz.

    I don’t think the flaw was so much with Buzz as it was with the privacy concerns around it. But, it really didn’t seem all that different than Friendfeed either. Maybe we all expected a little more than that.

  5. Although Google continues to surprise me as a company. I’m also not totally convinced that they will be able to break into the social media field. I agree, they are already pretty social, but I think that pushing it further is not such a great idea. Honestly, if I were them I’d be more worried about Facebook going after their Search Engine market. That being said, I think Google could fall into a dangerous spot if they remain stagnant. I suppose we’ll see.

  6. For some of us that disdain prostituting ourselves to Fakebook, just because everyone else does, this has a viability that FB cant compete with. I look forward to seeing what Google can do to bring all their services together.

  7. I’m actually surprised. This may be the what Google needs. The interface actually looks decent. If you haven’t noticed yet, take notice to all the logins, dropdowns, etc for Gmail, YouTube, etc (Google companies).. The simple interface has been getting a facelift..slowly but surely.

  8. I’m excited to see what Google ends up rolling out. As long as the quality of search results continue to mature, I see no reason why Google shouldn’t toy around in all aspects of technolife.

  9. Does Google think we need another social network? Do you? I can’t keep up now! Is the intention to replace Facebook, Twitter et all with a one stop shop? I could get behind that.

  10. I am not convinced that people a) want to combine social and search and b) will adopt a new social sharing outlet unless it is a true game changer, ala Empire that seems to be a combination of 4 Square and Farmville or c) want Google involved in their lives any further. Google has been taking some PR hits lately with privacy issues, that unfortunate trolling experience from late last year that exposed weaknesses in their algorithm’s ability to detect sentiment in the social space (DUH!), their reliance on competitors to expose egregious black hat practices that corrupt search results and certain security issues with the Android Application Store. Search is not social and social is not predominantly about search. For me, Facebook gets it right. You perform a search and get what your friends know or have along with a Web search engine’s results. Search and social, together as independent partners each with their own contribution to make.

  11. As always, google had proved its worth many times. And this new application would surely be included to the list of its helpful applications.

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  13. As an avid gmail user, i feel a “socializing” of goolge could be accomplished by enabling the gmail contacts to serve as the “hub.” Since a large percentage of all inbound email is from a small percentage of people who are most likely in your contacts, gmail should interact with contacts so when one clicks on an inbox message it opens the contacts page to give a central social location storing information and history pertaining to that specific message sender.

  14. Would seem like a mammoth project integrating all those existing offerings if that is the plan. Any ideas of ETA for this?

  15. We know in July Google groups will be migrating there users over to Google Profiles. I be shock if the big redesign of Blogger, which already been shown in a video does not include Google Profiles replacing your Blogger profiles.

    We also know Google profile manager/lead designer move over to YouTube just after he rolled out the new design, so I am going to presume that Youtube will be migrating over at some time in the future probably by the end of the year.

    So my guess would be this time next year all of Google services will be using Google profile.

  16. Great post. I agree. The Google patent filing describes a hub and corresponding user interface for social interaction, and possibly may include an availability indicator that would show whether other parties are available for interaction thanks for the share. Loved the read. Keep it up.

  17. Wow… Bill, you think like Google, seriously. Like others, I also know that all these services are of Google but never thought in this way.

    Nice one!

  18. Hi Jon,

    Good points. I think Google does feel pressure to become more interactive, even to the point of adding +1 buttons to their search results and listing social search results when you are logged into your Google Account.

    Google has been aiming at making many of the services they offer more social, and they’ve been focusing more and more on mobile applications. I do believe that they will try to tie together many of those social offerings into an easy to manage and easy to use social hub of some type that will work well on phones as well as desktops. The successes of sites like Twitter have shown the benefits of trying to do that.

  19. Hi Ric,

    One of the issues that springs up over and over at Facebook is privacy, and the possible harm that could come about in the way that data that people upload to Facebook might be shared and used by others.

    Google ran into a similar situation with the release of Google Buzz and the way that it publicly displayed contacts in Gmail and chat without explicit permission for the users of those services. It was a definite misstep on the part of Google not to make people explicitly decide whether or not they wanted those contacts displayed.

    I think we will probably see a social hub from Google this year, even if it doesn’t use an interface like the one from this patent. Hopefully they can avoid privacy issues like the one they encountered with Google Buzz.

  20. Hi Craig,

    There are a couple of nice aspects to those buttons that I might not have emphasized enough in my post. One of them is that the buttons shown will likely depend upon preferences that you set and that the person you might respond to has set. So for instance, if they use Google Talk to chat with and they are available to chat, and you use Google Talk as well, then an availability button might be shown which indicates that they are online and available.

  21. Hi The Dan,

    It’s a waiting game at this point. Hopefully Google’s focus on social won’t negatively impact any advancement they might make to the quality of their search.

  22. Hi Dana,

    Considering the amount of interaction being built into Google’s other offerings, providing a way to keep track of them all in one place sounds like a good idea to me as well.

    Different social networks have different personalities, different rules, and different uses. I don’t know that Google has any intention of replacing a Facebook or a twitter, and they might be better served by collaborating with those services than competing with them. One of the screenshots above does even have a “facebook” button on it, which seems to indicate a possibility that a social hub like this could potentially draw in information from other social networks.

  23. Hi marianne,

    There are definitely lines between search and social, and it’s possible to stray too closely to one at a risk to the others. I may not really want to see what people who are in my social circle are searching for, and I may not want them to see what I’m searching for as well. That may be even more true for people conducting research for work purposes who would prefer to keep their searches private. There are clearly instances where some lines should be drawn between search and social sharing.

  24. Hi LSM67,

    To some degree, that seems to have been the aim of Google Buzz – integrating your gmail and chat contacts into a social circle, though not with the fuller contact and history that you describe. I’m not sure that Buzz would be further developed in that kind of fashion, but it would be interesting.

  25. Hi Kim,

    Not sure when we might see an initiave like a social hub being launched from Google, but there are lots of indications from the Googleplex that they do want to become more social, including an email that was sent out to Google employees from CEO Larry Page that a part of their bonuses from this year would depend upon Google’s ability to become more social. So, there is an incentive for Google’s team to come out with something like this kind of social hub, and sooner rather than later.

  26. Hi David

    Very good points about how the Google profile is going to play a larger role in the services that Google provides. Google has also been busy tying services with Google Accounts over the past year or so, such as the use of a Google Account with blogger, with Google Analytics, and so on. Integrating services and signons like that makes sense from a logistics and management perspective.

  27. I really hate google buzz and I really hope they don’t try and go in the same direction with a social network.. I mean gchat in conjunction with gmail is emough we dont need buzz or a social network embedded in too.

  28. Hi Ankush,

    Thanks. One of the reasons that I look at patents and whitepapers from Google is to give me some notion of how they think about search and searchers and the Web. :)

  29. Hi Charlie,

    If Google goes forward with what is described in the patent, I don’t think that the social hub in the patent will be too similar to Google Buzz, but it might provide an option to include Google Buzz into what you might see within that hub.

  30. Yeah I agree with what you’re saying.. just going by their track record. You would have to wonder if they would attempt to add in this social capability into email. I think it goes against what email is.. a closed social conversation.

    Always excited to see what google will deliver next.. just really let down by buzz.. obviously I let it get the best of me lol

  31. Hi Clubbing Charlie,

    A social hub interface might allow people to see that they have new emails, but it probably wouldn’t make those emails or the subjects of the emails visible to others. Those email conversations would likely remain closed conversations.

  32. I wish Google could be a good change for Facebook. Of course, in that case Google would guarantee their lead for in internet sector for very long time, but… Facebook is used in a bad way by most of the people. It would be great if Google created more serious social network without worthless tests, status messages, where people simply write what they eat or what they do. Social networks are new things in our society and people HAVE understand how to use them properly. Google’s project could help a lot in this case.

  33. Hi Andrius,

    I guess one of the strengths of Facebook is that it provides a lot of flexibility with how to use it. If you want to spend your time playing games, taking silly tests, updating everyone with what you’ve had to eat for every meal, you can. If you want to share interesting and meaningful links to other pages, connect with people whom you haven’t seen in a long time, keep in touch with friends, and more, you can do that too.

    Whatever Google comes up with while they build a social network will likely share some similarities with Facebook when it comes to letting its users decide how they want to use it. Some of them may not use it in ways that you might like, but if people don’t find some value with it, then it may not be used at all.

  34. Are Google and Facebook switching places? Google was blatant search results with ads, and Facebook was all about people and connecting. Now we see Google pretending to be social and Facebook is shoving ads between posts that are only getting bigger and noisier.

    Google has too many apps and some of them pale in comparison to other sites. Have you tried to use Picasa as a photo-sharing site? It’s just stupid compared to the sites that are not trying to be everything. Do you need ‘Talk’ AND ‘Friend Connect’ AND ‘Profiles’??? When everybody’s on Facebook and Twitter? lol Sometimes Google is like an embarrassing relative.

  35. Hi Mike,

    Google may be growing more social, and Facebook may be including more ads on their pages, but I don’t think we’lll be seeing them continue to emulate each other to the point where it becomes hard to tell one from the other.

    I’m not sure that Picasa is really all that different from other photo sharing sites like Flickr, which have their ways to connect socially as well.

  36. Nice Pictures from the Patent. My first thought about it was just like yours: “Hey! That’s Twitter!” But i think if Google brings just another Twitter clone, there is no base for getting it in the Social Networks market. Facebook is so strong and flexible that it is getting harder and harder to build another Community in this market.

  37. Hi Mark,

    I was excited when I saw the patent images, and was even tempted to just post those without any commentary whatsoever.

    I’m not sure that Google wants to go down the path of building a tightly knit community again (they tried that with Orkut). It might make sense to give people the tools to create their own communities, including the ability to come together via group chats like with Disco:

    http://venturebeat.com/2011/03/26/google-enters-group-messaging-fray-with-disco/

  38. I like the Viet Nam analogy but I don’t agree with it. Google holds a position that affords it the ability to throw a lot of stuff against the wall. If it sticks, it can do a lot of damage to Fb and Twitter. If it doesn’t stick, well, on to the next.

  39. I’d love to see a social platform like this put together by Google. But I’m in a agreement with some here that they seem to miss the mark with their social media efforts so often that I’m almost scared to see what they’ll offer. I mean Google +1 – vote up a website before you even click through to it? Come on.

  40. Hi Dan,

    I haven’t used an analogy to Viet Nam in this post or in any of the comments, so I’m not quite sure what you’re referring to with your comment.

    Google has adopted the approach of trying different things out to see if they work, and if they don’t, quickly moving on to something else. Sometimes that works out well, but not always. For instance, when Google introduced Wave, and that failed, it seems like the failure alienated a number of the developers who worked on the project at Google, and a number of them left the company. So, there are risks with their Fail fast approach.

  41. Hi Matthew,

    Google does seem to be building their social presence brick-by-brick rather than as a fully formed network these days. I’m not sure if we’re going to see another Orkut from them, but if they can make many of their products more social, and then find a way to tie them together in a useful manner, that seems more like what they would try to do.

    The chance that someone might click on a +1 button in search results before visiting a page is more than a little questionable. But then again, many searches are ones where people are refinding information that they saw before, and chances are for those searches, people may just click on that button.

  42. Are google are now going to think like facebook? Google is a search engine mostly and google adsense with them. But facebook is a social network where many ads were publishing. Now we see Google pretending to be social and Facebook is shoving ads between posts that are only getting bigger and noisier. Google has too many applications but facebook have nothing. It’s just a stupid comparison.

  43. Hi Tremwell,

    Both Google and Facebook make their money largely through advertising, but at this point they definitely work in different ways. It probably shouldn’t be surprising that Google is working towards making many things that they do have more of a social element to them, but I don’t think that Google will try to take Facebook on directly.

  44. So what do you think of the new Google+… when it was announced I immediately though of you, and this post specifically. Do you think you were close enough with your thoughts?

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  46. Hi Robert,

    I’ve sent for an invite for Google +, but I haven’t received one yet. I’d like to road test it before I form too much of an opinion on it.

    From what I’ve seen so far, I was probably expecting a little more. But I’ll wait and see. I think Google will come out with some other new features sometime in the near future.

  47. Bill,

    I got invites, but it might only be restricted to US users, as I can’t use it as yet. I am just a little bit jealous right now, it would be good to have a little play around with it.

    I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

    Robert Steers

  48. Hi Robert,

    It’s been a few days, but with the intervening holiday, I didn’t spend too much time with Google +. I did add a few people to some circles, and was added by other folks, and I posted a couple of short posts and some photos, but that’s about it. I briefly glanced at sparks, and didn’t use the hangout feature. It does show some signs of being a better integrated experience than what Google has offered in the past in terms of social applications.

  49. Google has a huge amount of money behind it, but I am not sure it can take over FB as a social tool. I think they have to do a huge amount of marketing/advertising.

    I think people / non techie people see google a search engine only. I don’t really buy into any of it, it’s just something I have to for SEO

    They should just concentrate on supplying the best results via their system. We’ve already got enough SM tools, what can they bring to the table at this late a stage.

  50. Hi Darius,

    I’m not sure that Google should take on Facebook head to head, when it comes to being a social network, but I don’t think Google is really trying to do that anyway. What we’ve been seeing from Google with Google Plus is a much more tightly integrated effort where social search results and authorship profiles are now part of Web search results. Google didn’t really do that with services like Orkut or Google Answers or many of the other social offerings that they provided in the past.

    I think it’s a difference that could potentially make a really big difference.

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