Google I/O shows the future of the web

Google Plus, Facelift, Google Book
A Facebook competitor? Google Plus gets a cleaner, more intuitive and user-friendly interface.

I attended one of the Google I/O extended events in Kitchener-Waterloo yesterday and got a glimpse of some of the developer tools that will shape the way we see and use the web. As a marketer there were some things that will make it easier for customers to find the business they are looking for, for businesses to target audiences with personal messaging and allow for richer conversations between businesses and their customers.

Location, mobile and video are all going to be huge – and yes, I know that’s not a great revelation, but, as I’ll write about in more detail in the coming days the opportunities to use each of these intelligently to differentiate your business are huge. Google Plus, generally seen as a far inferior platform to Facebook, got a major overhaul with a facelift and major back-end updates will likely encourage users to take another look at it.

What does Google defamation suit mean for the future of search?

Recently I wrote about my concerns over comments posted on the web and how many online publishers are putting themselves at risk by allowing readers to post accusations about others online without evidence to support them.  In WWW – The Wild West Web I talk about the defamation laws and how many publishers, let alone those posting the comments – don’t understand them.

Now there is legal precedent, thanks to a case in Australia. Milorad Trkulja had alleged that the US firm’s image and web results had caused harm to his reputation.  The court found in Mr. Trkulja’s favour that a picture contained in its web search created a false innuendo but the jury found that Google was not liable for the web search results since Mr Trkulja had incorrectly filled out a complaint form, missing out the web address of the content to which he had objected.

Google may yet appeal the verdict, but if the ruling stands it opens up the flood gates for others to bring suits against publishers and search engines who publish information about both individuals and businesses that cannot meet the requisite legal burden of proof.

Despite the not-guilty verdict on the search complaint the case, Mr. Trkulja’s suit will fundamental change in online comment policies as well as online  news sites, blogs and chatrooms:

  • It will bring an end to anonymous posters
  • Expect tighter regulations that require publishers and search engines to provide user data in defamation suits
  • It will require online publications to moderate the comments added to their sites much more carefully
  • Search engines will need to be much more careful about the content they present.  Repeating a defamation makes you as liable as the person who originally broadcast it!
  • Significant changes to the way in which search engines collect and present results will be needed – websites will come under much closer scrutiny from search engine companies to demonstrate they have strict moderation policies
  • Websites will see changes to the terms and conditions used by search engines and a review of indemnity policies [Ignorance isn’t a defence against defamation, so claiming that you didn’t know the claims were inaccurate won’t help you].
  • I expect that search engines will make website owners liable for any losses they incur as a result of defamation cases
  • We will see a huge increase in defamation suits by individuals and businesses against online publishers and search engine companies.  In reality, if the defamation is published then the suit will go after the organization with the deepest pockets

I’ll write more about this in the coming days, but it’s worth remembering that in law there are only three defences against a defamation suit:

  1. It is the truth
  2. Prejudice and Malice [there are some jurisdictions, like the UK Houses of Parliament that are not bound by defamation laws]
  3. It is in the public interest that people are made aware of something – even if the statement is untrue.

You have been warned!

Google has the Holy Grail of social apps and is waiting for users to realize.

I, like many others, have been trying to figure out the point of Google + over the last few months.  In a world where Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare have all established their raison d’être, the majority of Google + users are still trying work out what purpose it serves.  The answer could, arguably, be the one thing that all social networks have been dreaming of… the holy grail called ‘engagement’.

At this point, I suspect a few of you – actually, most of you – will be frowning!  Your Google + streams are far less active than any of your other social networks – it’s a place many people go only when they remember.  Most will be visiting to see whether it’s more active than the last time they visited.  Right now, the answer is probably not.

But, there’s one application that I’m starting to use more and more… and I think it’ll become the most critical social application for both consumers and business users within the next few years – Google Hangouts.  Not tried a Hangout yet?  You should – and I suspect it’ll become an integral part of your personal and business lives in the next few years… here’s why:

  • A statistic I read this morning claims that 51% of traffic on the internet is non-human.  What better way to know that the person you’re talking with is real than via video?
  • The power of the real-time web has been vaunted with the growth of Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare… it won’t get more real-time than Google Hangouts!
  • You don’t need to be mutual friends, or followers, or use a specific OS or device to hang out.  If you seen an interesting hangout you can join it.  They can also be promoted via links on other social networks to find people that are outside of your circles.  Want true engagement… give me real-time face-to-face chat.
  • Want to know who’s credible and who’s not on any given topic? With video you’ll get to see and hear the person in order to explore the depth of their knowledge – rather than relying on third-party pseudo-scientific metrics.
  • Need to take a quick poll of interested and knowledgeable third-parties on a given subject?  Google Hangouts gives you the facility to do it quickly and easily and gather qualitative, as well as quantitative, data.
  • How about a webcast or conference, or just chat with friends – on demand? Why not hang out?!

So, while some have questioned the longevity of Google + – I, myself, have wondered whether it may go the way of Wave [you’d forgotten about that, hadn’t you?!] – it may well have the killer social app. and is just waiting for users to catch up!