Google Plus as Tomorrow’s Social Ebay?

Will Google Plus morph into a social version of eBay, where people can post things for sale, write reviews of their belongings and show them off to their circles?

A few days ago, the Google File System Blog reported upon a new application from Google, which it referred to by the name Google Mine (as in, “it’s mine,” rather than as in Google mining more information about your life). The post also mentions a version for Android on Google’s internal Play store. The post tells us that the app allows you to be pretty active about posting your belongings.

A screenshot from the patent showing the user interface for showing off your belongings.

As you can see, the service lets you enter a lot of information about your objects. For example, you can change the status of an object to “lent”, “given away”, “got it back”, “lost it”, “had in the past”. You can post videos about the object, write reviews, add it to a wishlist and maybe others can buy it using Google Shopping. You can also check popular items and the items others have shared.

A number of seemingly very related patent applications were published by Google earlier this year about showing off your belongings to people in your social circles, to offer them for sale, to provide reviews of them, to start discussions about them, and more. While I thought this was really interesting, I didn’t see how it might be related to search, and I questioned the wisdom of putting information about your belongings online. Now that I’ve heard about Google Mine, it makes a lot more sense.

In turning Google Plus into a social version of eBay and a review site all in one, it provides an interesting use of Google Plus that takes away some attention from Google Plus as a social network that a lot of tech blogs question the social nature of, or a site that might be framed as an “identity service” (as Google’s Eric Schmidt has referred to it in the past). The following interface from one of the patents shows how easy it would be to add one of your belongings, rate it, and share it:

A screenshot from the patent showing the user interface for adding and rating your belongings.

There’s only one inventor listed on the seven patent applications I’ve found that describe something very much like Google Mine, Zaheed Md Shahjahan Sabur. LinkedIn refers to him as a Senior Software Engineer at Google, working in Zürich, Switzerland.

When I first read through the patent applications a few months ago, I had some serious doubts about whether or not I would use it, or even consider the idea. But it has grown on me, and I can see adding a wishlist through Google Mine, writing reviews of products I like or dislike, and even putting some of the “treasures” I’ve found at garage sales and rummage sales up for sale.

I’m listing those (and their abstracts here), in case anyone wants to dig deeper into them. Since they don’t appear to potentially impact search directly, I’m not going to drill down deeper into them. If Google Mine takes off though, it could transform the way many people might think about Google Plus.

User Graphical Interface for Displaying a Belonging-Related Stream (20130055154)

Abstract

A system and machine-implemented method for providing a user profile associated with a first user for display including a stream area displaying one or more belonging-related posts including a user link to a user associated with the post and a belonging link to a belonging associated with the post, receiving an indication of a user selection of the user link associated with a post, providing a contact profile of a user associated with the post for display upon receiving the indication of the user selection of the user link, receiving an indication of a user selection of the belonging link to the belonging associated with a post and providing a belonging profile of the belonging associated with the post for display upon receiving the indication of the user selection of the belonging link by the first user.

System and Method for Tagging Belongings in Photos and Posts (20130055101)

Abstract

A system and machine-implemented method is provided for tagging of belongings maintained within a social graph of belongings in photos and posts including receiving a request to tag a belonging within a selected area of a display from a user of a system, providing, in response to the request, a list of belongings including the one or more belongings associated with the user within the social graph of belongings, wherein the social graph of belongings defines an association between each of the one or more users and one or more belongings, receiving an indication of a user selection of a first belonging from the list of belongings, generating a link corresponding to the first belonging in response to receiving the indication of the user selection and associating the link with the selected area.

System and Method for Searching Belongings Using Social Graph Information (20130055056)

Abstract

A system and machine-implemented method for providing a user with a representation of a belonging according to search criteria, the method including receiving a request from a user of one or more users of a system to search a social graph of belongings according to a search criteria, wherein the social graph of belongings defines an association between each of the one or more users and one or more belongings, each of the belongings corresponding to an item, comparing the one or more belongings associated with each of the one or more users with the search criteria, wherein the search criteria comprises at least one belonging attribute, identifying a belonging based on the comparison, the belonging having the at least one belonging attribute and providing a representation of the belonging for display to the user including providing the user with access to the belonging profile associated with the belonging.

System and Method for Displaying a Belonging-Related Stream (20130054709)

Abstract

A system and machine-implemented method for displaying a belonging-related stream of posts relating to belongings, including receiving a user request from a first user of one or more users of a system, the system maintaining a social graph of belongings, wherein the social graph of belongings defines an association between each of the one or more users and one or more belongings, retrieving a plurality of posts provided by the one or more users, the plurality of posts concerning the one or more belongings, identifying one or more of the plurality of posts associated with the first user and displaying a selected number of the one or more posts to the first user.

Organizing and Tracking Belongings Using Social Graph Information (20130054692)

Abstract

A system and machine-implemented method is provided for creating a new association of a belonging with a user within a social graph of belongings including receiving an input of a belonging from a first user of one or more users, generating a belonging profile associated with the belonging, associating the belonging profile with the first user within a social graph of belongings, generating a post and transmitting the post to be displayed to one or more contacts of the first user on a remote social networking site. Furthermore, a system and machine-implemented method is provided for retrieving and modifying a post including receiving a request to modify the post associated with a belonging, the post being displayed at a remote social networking site, retrieving the post from the remote social networking site, detecting one or more modifications of the at least one post and generating a modified post.

System and Method for Recommending Items to Users Based on Social Graph Information (20130054407)

Abstract

A system and machine-implemented method is provided for providing a first user with an item recommendation by referencing a social graph of belongings, including identifying a first belonging of one or more belongings associated with a first user of one or more users of a system, identifying a second user of the one or more users, the user being associated with a second belonging within a social graph of belongings corresponding to the first item, wherein the social graph of belongings defines an association between each of the one or more users and one or more belongings, each of the one or more belongings being specific to a respective user and representing an item, wherein the first belonging corresponds to a first item, identifying a third belonging of the second user, the third belonging corresponding to a second item and recommending the second item to the first user.

Enhancing User Shopping Experience Using Social Graph Information (20130054365)

Abstract

A system and machine-implemented method is provided for providing information regarding belongings within a social graph of belongings corresponding to a first item, the method including receiving an indication of interest for the first item from a first user of one or more users of a system, identifying at least one belonging maintained within a social graph of belongings, the at least one belonging corresponding to the first item, wherein the social graph of belongings defines an association between each of the one or more users and one or more belongings, each of the one or more belongings corresponding to an item, generating a list including the at least one belonging and at least one of a link to the user associated with the at least one belonging and a link to the at least one belonging and providing the list for display to the first user.

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13 thoughts on “Google Plus as Tomorrow’s Social Ebay?”

  1. Very interesting. It makes perfect sense to me.

    So let’s say you know the importance of social media (Compelling video on that here), which Google of course does, and you combine Google Mine with Google Wallet.

    1) One possibility is that it would allow you to tap into the non-commercial, person-to-person sector of the economy more easily – like combining Craig’s List (or eBay) with Facebook.

    2) Another possibility is that with the information stored in Google Mine, you could better personalize search results as well as better target ads.

  2. Thank you for the article, Bill. I think it will be an interesting aspect of Google Plus should it become an official part of it. I am not sure how I feel about sharing my belongings with friends as it would not be just my friends who would know (I’m not sure how much I want Google to know about me). But, I can see it being an incredible tool for businesses that want to pay top dollar. They could see what products you don’t have and advertise those specifically to you and they could see what you do have and advertise products that go with (i.e. a case for that new phone you just got!). Thanks again for the article!

  3. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for sharing the video – I enjoyed it.

    I like the look at Google Mine from the two different perspectives, non-commercial and providing better personalization and targeted advertisements. The idea of combining Craig’s list with Facebook makes sense. The kinds of items that I’m expecting to see that might be for sale are likely the kinds that we might see on Marketplace sites like eBay or Craig’s list.

    The patent filings also hint at being able to search for others who might have similar “belongings” that they’ve reviewed or have for sale. Supposedly this is in testing phase at present internally at Google. I wonder how that might transform what Google Mine contains and how it might work, if it is released to Google Plus users.

  4. Hi Kristyle,

    I wonder how much information and how much specificity Google might share with potential advertisers when it comes to belongings that people might place on Google Plus.

  5. An interesting development. Google plus certainly needs something to give it a boost and find an audience. Most of the people I know on google plus are on it because they feel they have to be (for their job) rather than they want to be. I could find them all and more on either linkedin or facebook. I guess google plus is looking for its own user segment. If its not teens (who use facebook) and not business people (linkedin) then maybe this is the answer.

  6. Ebay has been slacking and hasn’t really innovated in years. They are still on the original platform.

    The problem right now is that no one takes Google+ seriously. If they did, that means they would need something other than the Play store where people actually invested in their profiles. By invested, I mean time and emotional investment.

  7. We should have guessed that Google Plus would go down this route. What tends to happen at the moment is that Google and other large corporates chomp up the early adopters or simply copy what worked, and do it by scale. They are a business after all.

  8. I definitely think it would be interesting to see this in Google+, but I think google needs to focus on building Google+’s user strength first.

  9. Well the overall aspect is interesting, I’m not entirely sure how this idea would fly. Personally the concept of posting my belongings and rating them online is not really exciting but Google Mine as a social version of eBay could be strong. That being said, I agree with everyone else, that G+ should focus on improving their original platform before opening up new projects.

  10. Ebay I will be honest I don’t like ebay. The original concept was fine. Then they got greedy with their fees plus pay pals. Now all you see for sale on there is some cheap tack made in china that people are selling as decent products. Unless you really know what you are buying you are probably best keeping well away. Lee

  11. Hi Lee,

    I’ve never tried selling anything on eBay, but I’m not against the idea itself. I have seen some legitimate looking items still on sale there, but something just keeps me from trying to buy through the site.

  12. With so many choices in terms of connecting with your read through social media, it can get difficult and time consuming to manage them. Although Facebook is king of the social world, I find that Google+ provides more impact in terms of my exposure on all of Google’s entities: Youtube, Google maps, etc. Everything is integrated and really helps my marketing efforts.

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