Liveblogging Inside Social Apps: The Google+ Platform Roadmap in 2012

We’re at the San Francisco Design center, blogging Inside Network’s third annual Inside Social Apps conference. Founder of Inside Network Justin Smith sat down with Google+ Engineering Director David Glazer for a fireside chat called “The Google+ Platform Roadmap in 2012.”

The following is a paraphrased transcript of the discussion.

Justin Smith: Google+ APIs are currently invite only. What should developers expect from those?

David Glazer: Very early on we decided there were three stages. One, create great user experience. Two, use relationships and identity to activate other Google products. Three, then do that for anyone else who wants to take advantage of that. We’re doing those overlapping. We have Google products taking more advantage of people’s real identity. As we understand and feel good about the capabilities, we’ll start to add APIs.

Justin: How are communications going to work? What are the dynamics of how applications are going to work?

David: So, if I have a website, I’m publisher and I want to have rich experience for visitors to use the plus one button for sharing and to start rich conversations about their site. There’s a whole area around that kind of sharing. That’s one of the areas that has been getting traction for us. The status of our APIs is that they’re still invite-only. We have a few dozen games up there seeing different successes. Then there’s the Hangouts API, which is not for use publicly yet but there’s lots of capabilities. There’s really exciting things we’re seeing there that are intentionally below the radar.

Justin: When will those APIs be available for testing?

David: The unsatisfying answer is when it’s ready. We want to avoid hurting users and developers. What that means is that we made a conscoius choice to roll it out deliverately. It’s the opposite of the land grab model of launching a platform. The things we want to avoid there is hurting users and hurting developers. 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.

Justin: What are things you’re still working on now?

David: 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.” We listened to both sides because they’re both legitimate feedback. So we tried something new, by making what people do in games easily accessible to people who care, but not in the way of the people who don’t care. We set up a separate place where you could see people interacting in games and put that aside. What we’ve been tuning over time is finding the balance so that people who are interested in being more engaged in games, how do those conversations work without creating spam.

Justin: Google+ has segmentation of games related content. That balance is a challenge for any social service. Another interesting design decision is how social graph is architected on Google+, which is asymetric, follower, circle-based. How does that affect distribution? How should developers think about how the stream will work differently than on Facebook?

David: So far it doesn’t have to affect your [developers’] thinking. We’re trying to put control in the hands of users. Any time you’re [users are] sharing something on Google+ you choose your audience.

Justin: So will games always be segmented on Google+?

David: “Always” is a big word. So “maybe” is the answer to the literal question. The answer to the principle of the question is that it will always respect both types of people — those who want games and those who don’t. We will always respect both. Our first cut works pretty well and we’re fine tuning that.