Should We Care About Google Profile?

google profileBack some months ago, Google launched their more robust ‘profile’ page. Coming onto the scene with relatively little fanfare, its main hook was simply to provide a destination when you ‘googled’ yourself, allowing you a greater deal of control over how you were discovered on the internet.

And that’s all it has been doing—nothing has changed or become particularly more robust. You can add a feed of your flickr photos, links to all your blogs, and there are a few cursory implementations of various Google APIs (a non-dynamic maps image that shows where you’ve lived) to fill out the page.

But does Google have something else in store for its profile? Could they be planning something big and just waiting to release it? We know they’re trying to change the game in regards to online collaboration—just look at Google Wave—but will they try something similar here?

Google Already Has a Social Networking Application.

Yep, it’s called Orkut, and chances are you probably don’t use it. Unlike the ubiquitous facebook, orkut never really caught on in North America or the UK, and most of its user base comes from Brazil and India. While those are most definitely not places to be ignored, it’s safe to say that any big Google innovations are generally going to be ‘launched’ with the English-speaking market in mind. It’s just the way things go, Google being a Silicon-Valley based company.

orkut about pageSo if Google would already like you to use their social networking platform and you’ve politely declined, is the point of Google Profile pretty much exactly what it says? That it provides a home for your contact information as searched with Google, and nothing more?

Why Profile is Currently Limited, But Might Not Be For Long.

At the moment, yeah—that’s pretty much it. I started poking around for a way to display my Twitter feed on it, or my shared items in Google Reader, and they just weren’t available. All I could do was add a link to my twitter page, and Google had already provided a link to their own reader feed. No robust APIs were on display here.

Much of the reason Google Profile seems like it could expand into something bigger is because of its name. Profile makes us think of our facebook or linkedin profile, full of information, photos, comments, wall posts, posted items, and the rest. But facebook, until very recently, was a closed environment. It was impossible to access the feed of content attached to any particular user.

How Facebook’s Big Announcement Could Change Everything.

Now that Facebook has introduced their Open Stream API, however, all of this could change. Is there anything that might block Google from integrating the open stream of Facebook information into a Google Profile?

Not exactly, although Google’s own attempts to create an open-source, social media API across all platforms (that would be OpenSocial) read quite similar to what Facebook is now trying to do with its activity streaming.

facebook logoSince Facebook has not previously embraced an ‘open’ style of development with its API, preferring to keep things closed for many reasons (monetization being one important factor), this tentative step in that direction is a big risk.

Once all the rich user data from Facebook is openly accessible, readable, and modifiable, who’s to say that Google won’t simply step in, harnessing its unbelievable search capacity, and create an open facebook-alternative, displaying Google advertisements and providing an even better user interface?

So—while Google Profile seems strangely static and rather limited in its scope at the moment, keep watching for developments among the big social media APIs. The framework for a potential game-changer could be sitting right under your nose.

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One Response to “Should We Care About Google Profile?”

  1. Ian Hendry says:

    Interesting piece.

    Whereas Facebook and Twitter have grabbed the social networking headlines, an arguable “better” role exists for a company that can act to provide our identity on the web — the thing that we use to sign into the myriad social networks. Google has made some strides into this space with its support of OpenID and launch of Google Friend Connect. But Facebook has always been a step ahead by having a network attached to the equivalent Facebook Connect to which activity updates can be sent — do something on a remote website you’ve signed into using Facebook Connect and it can opo up in your news feed.

    I guess with Google Profiles then the same capability exists. If Google can make a Google ID the key to entering sites across the web (we already support it at http://www.wecando.biz) then a Google Profile becomes the place you go to find out what a specific person is up to. Oh, and every web user tells Google exactly who they are, who they know and what they are all up to. Imagine the marketing power behind that…

    Ian Hendry
    CEO, WeCanDo.BIZ
    http://www.wecando.biz

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