With over three years in the Google+ team, and heading its community partner scheme, Steve Grove’s role is to make sure that Google+ is an interesting place for members of the social network. There can be two ways of looking at this. One, believing that a vibrant community will automatically attract brands, media channels and celebrities to the network. Two, as Grove sees it, building a social network with content that is unique across the Web. Edited excerpts from an interview:
Google+ started as a social network, but today it’s integrated on all Google products. Why is this?
We’ve been consolidating the different services, so today Search, YouTube, the Google Play app store, all this plugs into Google+. And the reason for that is that Google+ is kind of like the next version of Google. And mobile is key to this, we’re seeing a lot of activity on mobile now.
There’s a lot of great value here, because Search also shows results from Google+ and this is going to bring more people into Google+; people are going to see that there’s a lot of value in logging into our services, before doing a search.
But along the way you’ve made some decisions that proved to be unpopular—you decide to require real names to comment on YouTube for example...
We believe that having a unified online identity carries a lot of benefits, and also, we wanted to prioritize value. Comments, YouTube comments, were a big problem, it was a wasteland.
The fact is that the username, JellyBean407, that’s a very different mindset, and the person who’s making the comment, they would never troll with their real name.
And we have seen that there’s been a positive impact, we’ve been able to build more robust conversations around YouTube videos, and that’s good for everyone.
Can you tell me about the kind of partnerships you’re looking to build, and what they add to Google+?
The community partner scheme brings in media companies, celebrities, sports stars and more. We want to bring interesting people to the platform, to generate content. Google+ is a content-centric social network, and we’ve got a lot of valuable content from partners, because they’re posting things specifically to Google+. I’m talking about content that’s unique across the Web. This brings in a tonne of value.
What are the community partnerships in India? What kind of content do people want here?
There’s also a lot of local content now, so in fact, you’ve got 27 million people following cricket, 25 million following entertainment, that includes partners like T-Series, Zoom TV; people like MissMalini have been very successful on Google+.
We focused a lot on Google+ here, and it’s already very active, and people are getting on board on their own.
How do you see social media, and Google+, developing?
Google+ already has a lot of great features, so for example, on photos, which is a very big focus area for us, you’ve got auto-enhance, and auto-correction, and even an automatic highlight reel, so you don’t have to spend all your time curating the pictures you took. We’re using an algorithm to figure out, okay, these are the pictures you want to see, and we’re saving your time, so you can enjoy your content.
And while I can’t tell you what exactly, I can tell you there are going to be big developments in photos in 2014. Another big change is going to be Hangouts—it’s a powerful video platform, and we’re seeing its broadcast features develop now. It is going to be really big.
But at the centre of our strategy right now, there’s mobile, it’s very important, especially for photos. It’s also going to create a network future with people uploading live videos from their phones. Google+ could do for live video, what YouTube did for recorded video.