This morning I signed up and had a play with Microsoft Labs’ social media application, so.cl. This was quietly released over the weekend with little attention as it’s a piece of experiment work rather than a new social media platform. It’s early days to be commenting on whether so.cl will be useful; currently it appears to be targeted at students and search sharing. I wonder whether the intention is to use the output to help improve the quality of Microsoft’s search engine, Bing.
Anyhow, the so.cl interface is reminiscent of Google+ (especially party invitations, that seem to be like Google+ Hangouts) and that got me thinking back over some Twitter conversations relating to G+ over the last few weeks. Those of you who use G+ on the iPhone will have noticed that absolutely awful recent upgrade, which somehow attempts to merge G+ information with the images people are posting. The result is a totally unusable interface. I have decided not to use G+ on the iPhone until a new release comes out. Whilst I’ve thought G+ could ultimately succeed Twitter and Facebook, I’ve had two reservations. The first has been the availability of the G+ API (more on that in a moment), the second is the ability to address mobile. Everyone uses social media on the move, whether that’s catching up with updates or posting pictures, so mobile is a hugely important platform. This has already been recognised as one of Facebook’s weak points in terms of monetisation, so this area was perfect for G+ to pounce on. However they have singularly missed the point and seem to be incapable of delivering to this platform. Perhaps the problem is two-fold. Google believe everything should be done through the browser. Probably the only applications that don’t fit that mould are Google Earth and Google Drive because they need direct graphics access and local filesystem access respectively, two things which the browser isn’t able to deliver. Currently, G+ is browser-only with few parts of the API currently released, the key missing piece being the API for Circles. I’m not sure why Google are holding back on this release but by stalling they are restricting the ability for programmers to develop mobile-based G+ applications. Without this (and of course decent desktop solutions), then G+ will be an also-ran.
The Storage Architect Take
We are starting to see social network sprawl. Flipping between multiple applications and/or browsers doesn’t work as users have inertia to change. Google need to release the full API now, or the platform will die. As for Microsoft, well as usual they are just too late and might as well not bother.