Google this week rolled out a fleet of changes to its products, including a revamp of Gmail; improvements to Google Reader that integrate Google+ sharing directly into Google Reader; and possibly the biggest change of all – a revamp of Google+, the site’s social network answer to Facebook, to include social pages for businesses.
So far, businesses seem to have embraced Google’s Business Page model as a viable alternative to Facebook’s pages for businesses and brands, and companies appear eager to use the new service on Google’s still fledgling social network, but the changes don’t appear to have much significance for individual users of Google services.
Google+ Business Page creation has taken off at lightning speed since the Mountain View tech company announced the release of the feature this past Monday afternoon, amid a swirl of all-too-public jostling between senior Google and Facebook executives. While it may be too early to deliver a verdict on the future of Google+ Business Pages, if the current pace of account creation facilitated by Business Pages is any indication, Business Pages could prove to be Google+’s most singular release to date, securing the boon that Google has long been looking for since it released Google+ this past July.
This news comes on the heels of the company’s October announcement that Google+ is now part of Google Apps along with the search giant’s wildly popular online suite of office applications for businesses. Clearly, Google is serious about turning its social network into a business tool as well.
Much like Facebook Pages, Business Pages are Google+ destinations where commercial names can not only broadcast news and propaganda to the world at large, but also interact with their fans and critics. It is too early to tell if this model will catch on successfully and for the long-term, but so far businesses are embracing the long-awaited opportunity to more sophisticatedly promote their content over Google’s platform.
Yet, lost in all of the commotion over the new releases by Google were two vital missteps that Google has since been careful to conceal – a failed release of the Gmail application for mobile devices (the application was released briefly Monday only to be taken down within minutes after bugs were reported by early consumers) and news that Google Maps may soon become a pay to play service after Google finishes conducting a much-desired maintenance to the service.
As early as January 2012, Google may begin charging customers for use of the Google Maps API service, when more than the limit of 25,000 map hits are exceeded in a day. This spells trouble for travel firms and other services that use Google Maps frequently to conduct business.
While it seems that Google may be taking a big step here in cornering the business market, ordinary consumers are the ones who have the most to lose in the changes made to Google’s services, and skeptics of Google+ are still not convinced that even with the popular addition of Business Pages that the social network will even come close to rivaling Facebook’s potential. So, what do ordinary consumers think of the releases? For Google, it doesn’t even matter, and that is a shame.
What really falls through the cracks in Google’s release is a fair representation of what Google products consumers are most excited about now, what aspects of the technology they may currently disappointed in, and what releases they are looking forward to in the coming years. In this most recent release of business-centric products, Google seems to have put aside any interest in what the public really thinks and gone for a straight-shot corporate tack.
Until Google realizes this misstep and figures out how to effectively capitalize on public concerns while making a real effort to please consumers, batch releases like Monday’s may continue to be just a shot in the dark for the tech giant.
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