Google’s Slow Shift to Social Unification?

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One of the aspects largely overlooked in Google’s recently unveiled Hot Trends is the prominent link on a topic’s page to ‘Discuss with others’. While the feature is currently flawed, and as such is basically useless, it could signal a move by Google towards unifying their services with a more social approach.
Clicking on the ‘Discuss with others’ link (found immediately below the Hot Trends ‘Peak’ information), takes you to a Google Group entitled ‘Google Trends Hot Trends‘. Despite being prominently displayed, this link garners little in the way of actual discussion on the Google Groups page – a total of 34 messages, 20 total members, and an activity rating of ‘Low’ for a group that is linked to on every single Hot Trend item.
Instead of this rather pointless broad group, Google should create a Google Group for each individual topic found in the Hot Trends. Furthermore they should make it so that at least some of the discussions will load right within the Hot Trends Topic page itself rather than redirecting you to the Google Groups page. This would show that there are others who are actively participating in discussions and entice more readers to contribute as well.
If Google could get this very basic social feature working in the Hot Trends area, they could expand the idea to their other services as well. This could particularly be interesting in Google News, where a single discussion thread on an article might be preferable to some over multiple discussion threads on sites like Digg, Netscape, Reddit, and the like.
Google Groups already keeps track of users posts and gives the option to have an avatar and profile just like the social news sites. Why Google isn’t making any moves to utilize these tools already in place is a bit baffling to me. It reminds me a bit of the Google Toolbar/Dice situation with StumbleUpon. In that situation, Google had the elements in place to create a service that would have been very much like StumbleUpon before it was popular, yet they lacked the foresight to do so. Here again, they have just about everything in place to unify some of their services into a more social network, but they still have yet to act upon it.

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  • Ralph

    I think it’s a nice idea of Google to try and list important events that are interesting for discussion. Can’t wait for more integration of Google tools.

  • Keith

    Google’s slow crawl towards social development has always been baffling to me too. While Google has some great tools and properties, one of the things they’ve always been weak at (at least when it comes to homegrown developments and not acquisitions) is creating a sense of a Google culture or society among its users.
    Google Answers is the prime example of this. Yahoo (despite its missteps in other areas) has always seemed to have a pretty good feel in this area due to its unabashed portal nature and they nailed this area perfectly with Yahoo Answers. Had Google taken this approach before it might have had a better reception (and if they offered it now that more people actually have Google Accounts it would almost certainly do better.)
    But perhaps it’s the very nebulous, clinical nature of Google’s properties that makes it so trustworthy to some people. If Google tries to dip its toe into allowing open discussion on all sorts of content does it cheapen the experience and diminish their reputation? Remember how Yahoo finally decided to pull the comments/discussion from each news story that appeared on Yahoo News? No doubt this feature created a lot of traffic for them, but they obviously decided it just wasn’t worth it.

  • Andy

    Google is King in the search engine world. However, when it comes to the social aspect of it, they have a lot to learn from their ancestor Yahoo…