Early last week I noticed Google’s newest social offering, Hotpot. I tweeted:
“Dear Google. Hotpot? Please stop. Seriously. Stop. (just noticed this)”
To which Google replied:
“Brian - stop what exactly? Would love to hear any more specific feedback you have about the product.”
Aside from the name, the problem with Hotpot is it feels like Google is viewing the product from a search perspective instead of a social perspective. I’ll never fault a company for trying to make their core products better. However it increasingly seems like Google is asking me to do the legwork in making search more relevant to my tastes and preferences - relying on my joining, rating, checking in and posting specifically within Google and its sidecar offerings. But Google is…well…Google! It has a non-expiring cookie in my browser that tracks what I do online. Shouldn’t it be able to decipher what I like, what I want, who I run with? Currently that’s not the case. If Google is excluded from social search (Open Graph) as a result of the deal between Microsoft and Facebook, that’s truly an epic misstep. Creating a new ecosystem of semi-social apps, all of which feel clunky, isn’t going to atone for such a miscalculation. People (and by “people” I mean everyone) are on Facebook; it’s a verb. It has become a normal part of our life routine. In contrast to Google, Bing’s Social Search queries my own Facebook posts, picture tags, check-ins - and those of my friends - in order to make search more relevant. They carry this throughout their product suite - shopping, search, maps, plans, etc. And since everything else I do and “like” runs through my Facebook account (Twitter, Foursquare, blog posts…), Bing has a pretty complete picture of who I am. You can debate the present quality of this service, or the societal implications of knocking a hole in the illusion that is personal privacy, but you can’t deny the fact that Bing has tapped the largest artery of personal information available. And the service should only get smarter with time.
My criticism of Hotpot isn’t solely with that product. It’s with Buzz, Places, Wave, Google’s Twitter search…the pattern of failed “social” product offerings. Google is lagging in contextualizing the information it serves up, and asking that people act in new ways to bridge the gap. Mass behavioral change happens successfully only a handful of times in a generation. Giving people another disconnected “thing” to do and manage is a white elephant gift in the landfill of digital ideas.
For more on this, visit Ping.