Google doesn't get social -- that's the message we always hear. But my goodness, it's trying.
Take, for example, the hugely popular but taking-forever-to-monetize YouTube. It has long had a social element, with users able to exchange messages, comment on videos, share them, and "Like" them through a Facebook account. However, I think it's safe to say the social element on YouTube is not much fun. Unmoderated chains of comments are packed with snark and flaming, and the site generally makes sociopaths feel comfortable and welcome.
We go there not for the company, but for "auto-tuning" the news, violent babies, and Justin Bieber videos. Right? Google clearly thinks YouTube has so much more to offer. You can kind of see why. Current statistics show 3 billion videos viewed on YouTube every day. That's over a trillion (US) views per year.
Last year, Google expected YouTube to show a profit for the first time. That looks like a business model that could use a little tweaking.
Meanwhile, Google+ got off to such a bully start this summer, allegedly startling Facebook into removing its friend exporter software, as people vied for the limited number of invitations to the new social paradise. The exodus of Facebook users has yet to take place, of course, and no matter how clean and swanky Google+'s interface, there never seems to be anything happening there. As Maria Korolov explained recently, it's not yet clear that anything about Google+ is so unique as to make it essential.
Nothing to lose, perhaps, from smashing its two somewhat social services together and hoping to see some sparks. That task has fallen into the lap of Ron Gorodetzky, an early Digg staff member who went on to cofound the social video startup Fflick, since sold to YouTube, which has done nothing with it yet.
Hosting original content was not Fflick's raison d'etre -- it was primarily an aggregator site for social discussion of movies, especially Tweets. How does that make Gorodetzky a match for the job? Reading between the lines of the very limited information he divulged in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Gorodetzky seems to see sharing as the basis for a more sociable experience on YouTube.
For anyone who is not a regular user, it's worth noting that YouTube is home to hordes of anonymous users, apparently all very angry. Having handles -- i.e., anonymity -- is the norm both for those who upload videos and those who make grouchy and often profane comments on them. It celebrates the worst characteristics of an anonymous, unmoderated chat forum.
I guess Gorodetzky hopes to put a stop to that, and though he has his work cut out, it's easy to see how integrating Google+ features can help. It will make it much easier to share your own video content, or content you enjoyed, with circles of friends or acquaintances. It can only improve the civility of the discourse, and though Google+'s puritanical approach to personal identity is ultimately unworkable, discouraging anonymity might reduce the incidence of "video rage."
I don't see how this helps YouTube's bottom line. After all, this isn't going to make any of us more likely to watch the ads. But at least it might restore a detectable heartbeat to Google+.
— Kim Davis , Community Editor, Internet Evolution