Google+ is still virgin territory for games and other social applications. At the Inside Social Apps 2012 conference this week, Inside Network’s Justin Smith sat down with Google+ director of engineering David Glazer to talk about what developers can expect from the platform.
Glazer said the company is testing Google+ in three phases: “One, create a great user experience,” he said. “Two, use relationships and identity to activate other Google products. Three, then do that for anyone else who wants to take advantage of that.”
Right now Google is testing the waters with publishers who use the +1 button to recommend and share content. Said Glazer, “That’s one of the areas that has been getting traction for us.”
There are also a handful of celebrities and news organizations that are previewing Google Hangouts. “I think the Hangouts API is going to allow people to build a whole new category of applications,” Glazer said.
When asked about these other categories, Glazer mentioned location-based apps and something more basic: “I want someone to build a deck of cards,” he said. “If you and I are sitting here and we had a deck of cards and 10 minutes to kill, that’s it, you don’t need anything else. [As a developer] assume you have a couple people hanging out around an object. People are pretty good at entertaining themselves.”
For the moment, game APIs are still are invite-only. “We didn’t want to get developers on board and then change the rules on them when we have a new policy or a new mechanism,” said Glazer.
Google is also taking the user’s preference into consideration. “Before we launched the first few games, we saw equal amounts of anticipation from the community – ‘gee, I hope they allow games’ and ‘I hope they never allow games,'” said Glazer. “We listened to both sides because they’re both legitimate feedback.” Basically, the activity streams will be separated in a way that game activity is hidden for those who aren’t interested and visible for those who are.
This sounds like the opposite of Facebook’s plans for games. In a panel discussion on Wednesday, Carl Sjogreen, Facebook’s director of product management said, “We want to move to a model where, fundamentally, the integration point in the app is to take the action and add it to Facebook in a structured way.”
At the same time, access to a player’s identity and social connections will play a large part in distributing Google+ throughout the network. Said Glazer, “The obvious insight is that people care about other people, so that should be baked into what you do while you’re online.”
A similar philosophy applies to developing apps for mobile devices like the Android and the Kindle Fire. “Mobile is obviously growing faster than the rest of the web,” said Glazer. “Therefore I think Google+ will see a lot of traction on mobile devices.”
But the devices are just means to an end. “We think about any new feature in the product and think about the mobile web, desktop, native application,” Glazer said. “We’re aiming for capabilities across all of them.”
Platform monetization was built for both comfort and speed. “The only time people notice it is when something goes wrong,” said Glazer. The games will be available both in Google+ and on the Chrome Web Store, and the Google wallet makes paying for the products more like using PayPal.
Brand pages aren’t a priority right now, but in terms of advertising, “Google is perfectly happy to help people use ad money to reach their audience,” said Glazer. “We’re pretty good at that.”