Inside Google+: Bradley Horowitz talks with Tim O’Reilly

>>O’REILLY: Hi, I’m Tim O’Reilly. I’m the
founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media and I’m here with Bradley Horowitz who’s the VP of
Product for Google+ and we are here to talk about Google+. I want to start out by apologizing
for being late. Do you have a similar apology about Google+?
>>HOROWITZ: No apology for Google+ but…>>O’REILLY: No, I’m just kidding here.
>>HOROWITZ: Sorry, sorry we’re late starting.>>O’REILLY: I’m just teasing you here a little
bit. But clearly you guys are, in some ways, late to the social networking party. And at
the same time, you know–so one of the questions that I received from, you know, the extended
O’Reilly Network was from Joe McCarthy, who goes by the none real name of @Gumption on
Twitter. And he wanted to know, you know, what’s different about Google+. And, you know,
why should we not be subject to social network fatigue? Now, I have my own answer but I would
love to hear what, you know, your thinking is at Google about what’s unique here, what
are you bringing to the table that people should be paying attention to?
>>HOROWITZ: Well, I think one of the most gratifying things about Google+ has been discovering
what is unique about it together with the community over the last seven weeks. Since
it has only been seven weeks since we launched. I think hundreds on day one, a lot of people
looked at this and said, “Looks familiar, there’s a stream, there’s a profile, we’ve
seen those before, we know how that works.” And what was great is watching really over
a period of a week, as people started to use the system and engage with the system to watch
them discover that this was not a “me too network” but there was something very different
going on. And if I had to attribute it to one thing, I would say it is the social graph
model, Circles, which really is an up leveling of things that people have seen before. It’s
asymmetric and allows for the spanning or following relationships. It’s symmetric and
allows you to have intimate relationships with close friends as well. And they’re both
filters through which you consume content and targets through which you share content.
And I think it took a while for people to understand that model but as they began express
themselves through that model, they recognized that this was a very different network and
could be used in many different ways, some familiar and some completely new.
>>O’REILLY: Yes, I think it has been true with all of the social networks, the used
cases aren’t necessarily understood and we are exploring a possibility space here and
it’s not always clear what’s going to work or what’s going to be effective. One thing
is that I find most intriguing about Google+ is it really is much more integrated with
my workflow. Yes, maybe it’s just my age but email is still, you know, just a major part
of my workflow. And so, you know, Gmail having easy access to sharing–yes, I really now
have two workflows, I have my third party Twitter client which I also use to look at
Facebook and LinkedIn. And hopefully, eventually Google+, when the API comes. And then I have
my, you know, effectively my Google console which is everything from, you know, which
is my browser effectively. And, you know, I do find that integration to be a really
compelling aspect as well because I can move easily between these different parts of my
workflow.>>HOROWITZ: Yes, that is certainly our intention.
We’re really just getting started. I think the recognition that there was a common bit
of real estate across your Google experience anyways. That strip at the top which is now
black and includes the link to get back to +Tim in your case, as well as notifications
so that you can see your social activity in situ, whether you are on Google Search, whether
you are on Gmail. And then finally, that share box and there’s some exciting opportunities
coming there, literally in days, that will transform how people think about that. So
certainly, it is our intent to make your experience as a Google user integrated with Google+ and
there’s much, much more to come. It feels like we’re just scratching the surface of
what’s possible.>>O’REILLY: Yes. Can you talk at all about–you
know, it’s in this interesting middle space between say, Twitter which is a–and, you
know, blogging, for me as a user, I find myself sharing thing–it’s funny, blogs have become
more formal over the last decade. Used to be this was the casual sharing mechanism and
now it’s more like a publication. And that space, that casual space where you can, you
know, write a few paragraphs, much like you’d write an email and–but yet, then it’s shared
in a social context for me is really fabulous. And I’m really stunned by how much engagement
I’ve gotten. You kind of bugged me about this one. I’d signed up but I wasn’t really using
it and you said, “Hey, you’re really getting in?” And I, you know, here I’d been writing
on my blog for years and I’m getting as many comments or more on Google+ within a few weeks
of, you know, becoming active there than I had built up on, you know, with years of goodwill
on the blog. So it’s pretty clear this is something a lot of people are paying attention.
Do you have a sense of why? What’s the driver there and is might experience typical or atypical?
>>HOROWITZ: Well, yours is certainly atypical. I wish I could promise your experience to
every one of our users, you know. But I do think what is interesting; I think there’s
a level of vitality in our service. One thing that’s great about it is that it’s incredibly
fast in every dimension. So, we work like crazy at Google and especially on Google+
to make this really scalable and fast service. So, we focus on latency and use every bit
of cleverness we know how, both in the backend infrastructure, also the front end, how the
product is rendered and sort of gradual exposure of interface elements. We think deeply about
these things to make the service fast and the real-time nature of the commenting. What
is so cool for me is to ask a question like, you know, “What should I ask Bradley at our
webcast?” And to watch the answers pouring in, in real-time, and especially now with
the comment collapsing to actually have like a little ticker that sort of rolls by watching
this feedback pour in, not to mention things like hang outs which are really about real-time
face to face to face interactions. So, I’ve heard on O’Malley call it the live web or
the living web. It feels like there’s a certain vitality in this product and it’s not just
the engagement it’s the rate of engagement and the intensity of engagement.
>>O’REILLY: Is that–I mean, that’s one of the things though, when I remembered when
Scobowl was raving about FriendFeed a few years back and the great level of engagement.
And I was just like–I mean, I can’t handle another, you know, super engage stream. Hey,
I can only have so many of these things. And yet I’m not finding that true with Google+.
And I think it’s because of data integration. It’s really, sort of, another phase of the
same stream. But still, do you see that there’s a bit of a concern how much time do you have
in a day for interaction. You know, one of the things that I really liked about Twitter
is its way of sort of documenting and sharing, you know, my reading and things I find interesting
and I replied all my @messages but it’s actually much less engagement, you know, even though
I have 1.5 million followers on Twitter. At least in theory I get, you know, I’ve got
something like 60,000 people who got me in Circles. I’m getting, you know, a lot more
engagement in Google+ and I wonder at what point it becomes just like, whoa, I just can’t
keep up. And do you have any thoughts about how you’re going to help manage that in the
future?>>HOROWITZ: Yes. Well, I have a lot of thoughts.
You’ve touched on a couple of things. One, we do and we did focus on the design of the
product a lot and how can we up level the conversations. So, one of the things we noticed
was that people were talking about the manusha of, you know, stuck in traffic, still stuck
in traffic, had corn flakes for breakfast and sort of. That stuff is not especially
compelling just by its nature. And part of the social networking fatigue, we thought,
was sort of getting dragged through the manusha of everyone’s life. You do a lot of thoughtful
posts, you know. That’s your thing. So, you’re not normal in that way. Most of us can’t do
what you do and don’t have as much great content to generate.
>>O’REILLY: Well, but actually, the dirty secret of my experience at Twitter is actually
I have two Twitter accounts and one of them is for Lisa famously called ambient intimacy.
You know, it’s my family, close friends, and there it is like, you know, I love seeing
what my brothers are–I just went, you know, stair running at Stanford campus with my daughter.
And I go, he’s daughter’s home, you know. So, so, you know, it’s lovely.
>>HOROWITZ: You agree.>>O’REILLY: And, you know, so is that diversion?
A used case, I think which I did with two accounts in Twitter, you know, one is the
Mindcasting, you know, that is the other wonderful term Jay Rosen coined. And yet Circles, you
know, it–it really, you can easily do that with the same account, with the same…
>>HOROWITZ: That’s exactly right.>>O’REILLY: Dare I say, real name.
>>HOROWITZ: You know, there’s nothing–there’s nothing wrong with this, you know, manusha
casting, if you want. The fact that the baby just spit up, that’s probably not interesting
to the 1.5 million followers. It’s probably very interesting to, you know…
>>O’REILLY: Yes, exactly. Yes, in life…>>HOROWITZ: Your intimate circle, that’s
what circles are for, and it sort of allows you to use the same product. The other question
you had is sort of we’ve understood that the stream is becoming a torrent and it’s at some
point unmanageable, you sort of need to hold it back, the engagement is too much. And even
the real-time nature of the stream, one of the bits of feedback we’re getting again and
again is, it’s too fast, I can’t keep up with it, it’s flowing in faster that I can read
it, it’s jumping around. We’re dealing with this stuff, you know, it’s a fairly high class
problem but the noisy stream problem is one that we think we have a lot of technology
here to solve.>>O’REILLY: Yes. I certainly do think, you
know, there’s a stage–well, there’s sort of a used case with various kinds of social
media. One of which you feel like you have to pay attention to the stream and this stream
is optional. And I know for me one of the liberating things about Twitter was this idea
that, there was this wonderful stream going by and you could dip your bucket in but you
didn’t feel like you had to drink all of it. You know, you don’t try to have, you know,
a twit stream zero.>>HOROWITZ: Yes.
>>O’REILLY: And the way you try to read about zero…
>>HOROWITZ: So losing it all.>>O’REILLY: Yes. And so therefore, I think
you have kind of some different standards. And again, it kind of comes back to an idea
that I think we all need to be thinking about, which is we’re trying to explore what this
new technology’s build in the way of sort of a social layer online.
>>HOROWITZ: Right. Yes.>>O’REILLY: So I–since this is–webcast
is really associated with our Strata Conference which is a technical conference on data. I
want to ask you a little bit about the technical infrastructure of what you’re doing? I mean,
what are you doing that’s at least–or what are you doing that you can share that’s innovative
and powerful? You mentioned, for example, the quest for very little latency. How are
you doing that?>>HOROWITZ: Well, again you’re sort of in
the territory that we’re–we consider proprietary here. And moreover I’m probably the least
qualified on the floor here to speak to our technical infrastructure. I’m the head of
product. We have amazing engineering talent, data scientists, architects. We’ve really
brought it to bear here and things like the little latency experience that people get,
don’t come easy. And, you know, required some really hard tradeoffs around how we built
the product and how much time we took building the product. We wanted to build something
that was scaleable to a Google sized audience and wouldn’t suffer outages and sort of some
of the problems that have plagued social services as they grow. We sort of knew we were in for
that and wanted to architect this in the way that we’re sympathetic to that. So, you know,
we have a lot of layers on the Google stack that we’re leaning on. So, with familiar layers
of BigTable and GFS and all of that and then a lot of proprietary software that we built
specifically for this project to make sure that we have low latency performance and scaleable
performance. So…>>O’ REILLY: Do you see yourselves open sourcing
any of that technology at any point?>>HOROWITZ: That’s not on the near term horizon.
For us, we open source a lot of stuff and I think especially at the level of standards
and inoperability, we have a pretty strong story and track record there.
>>O’REILLY: Yes.>>HOROWITZ: So, in one way like the Google
Stack. It’s hard to open source parts of it. You know, because it is a layered cake, all
sort of built on other functionalities. So it’s hard to sort of to take a layer out of
context and sort of say that would be a good thing to open source. We’re sort of all in
from the level of the hardware on up, so.>>O’REILLY: I would say just putting my open
source hat on that that’s a potential weakness for you guys. You know, open sources some
typically have an architecture in which people can participate in multiple layers. I remember
Lance Treadwell saying once, that he–you know, if somebody had given him the source
code to Windows; he still couldn’t have built the last code for it because it was all too,
you know, stuck together.>>HOROWITZ: Yes, well, it’s true. I mean,
there’s many people here who are working on that problem and refactoring our own stack.
But, we’re also operating services on top of that stack. So, you know, we have innovator’s
dilemma, challenges to…>>O’REILLY: Yes. Speaking of that, there
was a really interesting question. You know, I was soliciting, you know, comments and questions
from other people and Alistair Croll who’s one of the co-chairs of the Strata Conference,
sent in an interesting question about stacks. He specifically said that–he said that–on
one of the Strata online conferences we ran on the personal cloud. Frank Gillet from Forrester
explained how we’ll choose a cloud stack where we once chose a desktop stack. A new stack
is mail, calendar, social storage, voice video, iAmazon, just as the autonomous clipboard
printing driver hardware set up and the like. And, of course, that actually didn’t sound
like stack to me, that sounds like the applications suite. But there is actually a stack below
that, that supports the application suite. And I guess the question, you know, is, you
know, do you think it is true the Internet is consolidating into a few stacks? You know
there’s the Apple stack, there’s the Google stack. You could argue there is a Microsoft
stack. And, you know, there is–it is various flavors of kind of the startup stacks so to
speak, instead of open sourcing any cloud-based technologies that all the startups are using.
How do you see that playing out over the next few years?
>>HOROWITZ: Well, that kind of question is something I’d pay to go hear you talk about.
You know, I’m not exactly the expert in this stuff. But, I do feel like clearly developers,
users are betting on Google and the integrity of their stack, the integrity of their data
and we’re trying to do right by that opportunity, to both be very, very careful just in terms
of how we treat that data with respect to how it’s replicated. What happens when you
delete it, there’s all kinds of policies that I think are attendant to being the custodian
of that data, as well as responsibilities for data liberation. So the guys in Chicago
that run the data liberation front.>>O’REILLY: Right.
>>HOROWITZ: I think that’s a big a part the story that if the world is consolidating into
a few sort of reasonable choices one can make about where their keeping their digital lives.
We have to be good citizens in that regard and allow people with a pull of a handle to
sort of up and leave and take that…>>O’REILLY: Yes.
>>HOROWITZ: …and interoperate. So, I’ve mentioned before standards, we’ve been really
promoting standards and trying to drive inoperability. I heard a great story at lunch today about
someone–you know, I asked what backup software they use at home? And they said that they
use an open sourced product that allows them to sort of point toward any estuary or estuary-like
instance. And they run and own that instance. It’s not as if the software that they’re running
sort of manages that as a service for them. They install the software, they point it at
their own estuary and since–and they’d literally managed their own data on the Amazon stack.
So I thought that was a good…>>O’REILLY: Yes.
>>HOROWITZ: …story of how ultimately users might say I’m all in for storage over here
and services sort of leverage that and point that. And you know we will get there one day.
>>O’REILLY: Yes. I’m really interested in this sort of a stack concept because it’s
pretty clear that there is a virtual circle. Like if you’re on Apple, you know, you have
all the Apple services work better. You know, your iPhone integrates with your PC, integrates
to some extent that with the various cloud services they’re trying to put out.
>>HOROWITZ: Yes.>>O’REILLY: And I know that in my own experience,
the more Google services I use, the more other Google services I want to use. So I–you know,
I–I’d liked an Android phone better than an iPhone because it actually integrates better
with Google Calendar, for example. And that question of, you know, consolidation is there
and I think you’re absolutely right to say that in those–that world of consolidating
stacks, use of freedom may not be about, you know, having your own software source code
or, you know, the old ideals of open source, it really is about can I get my data somewhere
else?>>HOROWITZ: Right.
>>O’REILLY: And that really is the shift that we’re in the middle of. People understanding
that, you know, that lock-in, it really comes from your data more than from your source
code.>>HOROWITZ: Yes.
>>O’REILLY: And I guess in that context it goes back to that open source question. If
you really succeed with Google, you could presumably say a lot more of your stuff could
be open source because the lock-in, you know comes from the virtual circle of the data,
works better with the other data from the other services and people want to be there.
That’s the kind of–I love when, you know it’s not really lock-in, it’s buy-in. You
know, it’s literally buy-in. I’m bought into this because it works for me.
>>HOROWITZ: That’s the huge leap of faith that we take with the data liberation thing.
>>O’REILLY: Yes.>>HOROWITZ: You know, this is exactly contrary
to services that are trying to build roach motels and ant farms and, you know, we’re
trying to give users choice.>>O’REILLY: Yes.
>>HOROWITZ: And they can leave and come back, you know, we have take out, we also have import
that allows people to move your people back in and, you know, we want to–we want users
to use us because we’re offering the best service in the market at any given instant,
not because they’re trapped at Google.>>O’REILLY: Right. But there’s another to
aspect to that which is–for developers there is, is this the platform I can build on?
>>HOROWITZ: Right.>>O’REILLY: And I know you guys are planning
to open up some APIs.>>HOROWITZ: Yes.
>>O’REILLY: I believe you’re not ready to announce the timeline or anything like that,
you know. But, you will be–I assume, you’re hoping to encourage a third party developers…
>>HOROWITZ: Absolutely. I mean if–you know, Google has a pretty good track record in this
regard. It seems to be a pretty successful strategy to be a platform, especially in the
social networking space. We have early indications of some things that, you know, users can look
at and understand. The games launch for instance, we didn’t write those games ourselves, those
are all partner games with 10 named partners and a white list situation. We have plus one
buttons which are now appearing across the Web billions of times a day. So we have…
>>O’REILLY: Again there’s two different kinds of–of APIs in my mind.
>>HOROWITZ: Yes.>>O’REILLY: One is, here you can just call
our service period and–you know, so for example I can put a plus one button.
>>HOROWITZ: Right.>>O’REILLY: The other though is I can actually
build also in the interface. So, for example, I mostly access Twitter through Seesmic Desktop,
you know. Other people did through TweetDeck, which is of course now part of Twitter. But
there was sort of a rich ecosystem of third party clients which led to a lot of experimentation.
And, you know, for example, I–one of the reasons I like Seesmic is it actually lets
me–it really is my social media console because I can look at Twitter, I can look at Facebook,
I can look at LinkedIn. And I hope eventually I’ll be able to look at Google+.
>>HOROWITZ: We–we will do that. And there is no doubt. We will do that over time and
we’ll probably do it in stages were, you know, releasing read APIs and before write APIs.
And doing it with a deep concern for the user experience to make sure that errant apps,
whether willfully, malicious or accidentally breaking the system are sort of monitored
don’t spoil the experience for everyone. So I think that in a platform that is social
by nature you have to do this in a disciplined way or else you fall victim to sort of the
innovation, sort of interfering with people’s experience because it is a social product,
right? If I have an errant app that is blasting spam at all of the people that care about
me, that’s going to be bad for everyone. So, we want to do that in a way that’s sort of,
not only empowers the developers to do great things, but also makes sure that users have
choice in the matter.>>O’REILLY: Now, I have not yet seen much
in the way of Google+ spam or–have you had any problem with it at all I other…?
>>HOROWITZ: Yes, we have spam. I think circles again help because to the degree that the
spam or joins and cannot seduce anybody toward interacting with him or putting him or her
in a circle. The spam are sort of, you know, impotent over there on the side. It is possible
through impersonation or other means of, you know, climbing up the social ladder to sort
of get spam in the system. We have both algorithmic and consumer operations folks that are looking
for spam and reacting to that. But, you know, we agree, so far that team is doing a good
job but it’s less because people haven’t tried to game it. I think we’ve quickly become an
interesting target given the scale we’ve achieved. But it’s more a credit to the Google teams
that have been anticipating this and sort of prepared for it.
>>O’REILLY: So, I ask for questions on Google+ and on Twitter, and huge number of questions
were about real names. You guys are taking some heat on that. Maybe you can talk to me
a little bit about what you’re thinking there?>>HOROWITZ: Yes, I can say a little bit about
it. We certainly have taken some heat. A lot of that heat has been directed at me and Veck.
And for the record, it’s actually…>>O’REILLY: You guys should’ve had synonyms.
>>HOROWITZ: Well, I do actually and that’s sort of figure I want to say. Yes, I’m elatable,
that’s a durable pseudonym I’ve used for, you know, I don’t know if it’s 10 years, probably
7 or 8. And it’s been interesting to sort of listen and we’ve been doing a lot of listening.
I certainly understand pseudonimity, anonymity; I am a pseudonymous user in many, many services.
I appreciate the ability to go incognito and anonymous at times. I think those are used
cases that we don’t need to be educated about. I certainly, you know, I’ve run Blogger and
Flickr and understand the importance of this for the Internet culture and continue to support
that. When I think about Google+ and where we’re at today, both with the product and
the policies, I think of many, many trunches of users that are frustrated that they can’t
get into the system today. And sort of a couple that come to mind, one of our Google apps,
Enterprise users. These are our paying customers that count in the millions and we don’t let
them use our newest coolest product and they’re very, very frustrated by that. The reason
we don’t is because there are certain agreements and covenants and expectations that we’ve
set with the administrators for those accounts about how data will be stored, whether data
will be public or private to the domain, et cetera. And we want to get those product things
right, so that when we do launch the Enterprise version of Google+, we do it in a way that
it is consistent with the promises we’ve made and the expectations in used cases that those
business will have a need.>>O’REILLY: I’ll answer that because that
was one of the other questions; a lot of people were like, whether…
>>HOROWITZ: Yes. Well, yes, I mean and man do I feel there pain in and I promise you
we’re working really hard on that. That’s a huge patch of users that are the last people
in the world we want to frustrate because they bet the businesses on Google. Another
patch would be minors, 13 to 17-year-old people can’t get into system right now and again
it’s a…>>O’REILLY: Or they–with–without lying…
>>HOROWITZ: There are none in the system at all. And it’s going to stay that way until
the product is ready to accommodate them. And when it is, it will have affordances for
them.>>O’REILLY: So, how do you verify that?
>>HOROWITZ: So, we don’t want to get into the game of verifying that per se. We want
to make sure that when children come in, they don’t need to lie. I think the worst case
is to have a product that would encourage children to lie. We want them to come in,
give us their true age and get a great experience that’s appropriate for them. So, for instance,
it might not be appropriate for a child to hang out with a stranger, for instance. That’s
a hypothetical example I want to invoke because a product change that we would consider in
order to accommodate the needs of minors and serve them in our product before we let them
in. And as much as I’d like to have them in, in fact, it was people barely out of their
teens who informed a lot of the design and implemented this product, the Google APMs,
and interns and engineers are sort of, you know a handful of years out of their teens
themselves. I would love to have teenagers in the product and–and learn from them and
sort of dialogue with them about their needs and used cases. I’m sure that’s going to be
a great experience when we’re ready. Another category of users would be brands. We’ve kicked
out, you know, tens of thousands of brands that have–wanted to get into the service,
you know. Would I love to have Starbucks and Nike and…
>>O’REILLY: O’Reilly Media?>>HOROWITZ: Yes, O’Reilly Media in there.
I would love to and we’re going to. But, we want to make sure that when you come in the
experience is not only good for you, the brands, but also good for the rest of the community.
So that when brands enter the ecosystem, it’s a great experience for both brands, the people
who want to follow them and the people who don’t, you know. So that–so that the experience
is not a vector for O’Reilly the spam, spam…>>O’REILLY: So, I was just kind of interesting…
>>HOROWITZ: But I’ve avoided answering the question. I think the punch line that I want
to get to is, there is also a big patch of users called people that would prefer to use
pseudonyms or not their common names in the product. Certainly, I’ve heard them; they’ve
been very vocal, passionate and loud and made some wonderful arguments as to why that would
be a great thing in the product. There’s no moral opposition to that happening. Again,
there’s lots of users that we’re not letting in the product now. When we want to–when
we get those users in, we want to do it in a way that is great for them, great for the
rest of the community. We’re continuing to work on that and think about how we can do
that in a way that serves everyone. In the grand scheme of priorities, it’s high. Well,
the volume on this is certainly high. But, there’s nothing to announce today and I’m
sure that will disappoint millions.>>O’REILLY: Yes. I’m struck by, as you talked
this–yes, there’s a little bit of Steve Jobs in that policy.
>>HOROWITZ: I don’t know what to think of that.
>>O’REILLY: Well, just in the sense that, you know one of the things that Apple has
done a really great job on is trying to make design decisions that aren’t driven by, you
know, what people think they want today. But much more saying, “Hey, we’re really trying
to design a product that’s going to work. And when you, you know, when we get it right,
you know, we going to give it to you.” And I guess I would have to say I applaud you
for focusing on trying to get it right. I should also just say that in general I feel
like this whole area of social is very much up in the air, we don’t know what works, what
doesn’t work. And I have to say my own reaction to some of the strident, you know, calls for
you guys to change what you’re doing has been, you know, give me a break, you know, let’s
try some different things, let’s figure out what we learn from them. You know, you guys
aren’t going to necessarily, you know, put a stake in the ground and stick to it if it’s
not working. The market will tell you what it really demands and, so, let’s–the arguments
be from efficacy and not from, you know, self-righteousness. I’d love just to see where this goes, you
know. You know, you put a stake in the ground, you start to get feedback from the market–and
not feedback from the market as in, you know, “We like it, we don’t like it.” But actually,
it kind of goes back to the theme of data watching what do people do? What difference
does it make? What kinds of behaviors happen on pseudonymous networks versus networks with
real names? And I think–so there’s some really interesting things to be learned here by taking
a position like this and seeing what happens.>>HOROWITZ: Yes, that reminds me of something
Sergey said once and I misquoted him and he corrects me. I thought he said, “Don’t listen
to what people say. Watch what they do.” And he said, “No. Listen to what people say and
watch what they do.” Which is much better right?
>>O’REILLY: That is actually–that’s a really good point. I think the other thing I would
say about this controversy, I’ve become increasingly convinced that anonymity is becoming a–true
anonymity is becoming increasingly difficult. We’re leaving too many data trails which are
being mined by too many people and the idea of anonymity and pseudonimity are really a
fig leaf. They really are an illusion increasingly. And yes, it maybe that we can be pseudonomous
to our friends but we’re probably not pseudonomous to law enforcement, to government, to big
marketers, you know. They have all kinds of ways around that and so again, I do not know
where you’re going with your reaction to all the market feedback. But there is a part of
me that says, you know, “Let’s not kid ourselves.” You know, I’ve been saying this in conjunction
with Facebook too. You know, we have top come to grips and–with a world in which it is
most likely that we will not be private in a lot of contacts, where formerly we were,
you know, private through obscurity.>>HOROWITZ: Yes.
>>REILLY: You know, we walked down the street and our face would get captured on the camera
and face recognition is happening and, you know, more and more data, you know, on our
devices. You know, we’ve being–we carry a phone. You know, we have a device that–where
we can be traced. We all–you know back in the ’50s they would have movies about people
with these bugs that you would–allow you to track them. You know, it was this big or
if not in the ’50s, hell in the 80’s, you know.
>>HOROWITZ: Right.>>REILLY: And now of course, we’re all carrying
one, we pay it to carry ones, right?>>HOROWITZ: Yes.
>>REILLY: And we–so I guess I feel like there’s a lot of backward looking, oh wasn’t
it nice when, opposed to forward looking. Okay, let’s assume that there are used cases
where we really need to be anonymous or pseudonymous. How the hell are we going to do that today?
>>HOROWITZ: Right.>>REILLY: And I think you actually do–you
have more of a chance of doing that if you create a regime where you say, “Okay. Well,
here’s what it looks like.” Then we really will have to work on that edge case. ”
>>HOROWITZ: Yes, I think one of the great points from what you are saying is around
setting expectations and truth in advertising. When you go into incognito mode in Chrome,
which is really cool to have some sort of separate cookie space, I use it all the time
to for various experiments and–but it has a disclaimer there. Which is, you know, is
plain English, as I think these things can be which is basically you are in incognito
mode. Don’t get lulled into a false sense of protection. There is a lot of pops between
this browser and the data source and, you know, based on your ISP or other files you
download or other things, you can leave trails which are indelible and can’t be protected
by this incognito mode. I like that. And sort of making sure that we don’t make a promise
that we can’t keep and again one thing I’ve heard loud and clear is that the stakes are
very high for people, dissidents for instance, that need the affordance of this protection,
you can’t sort of be half assed about it.>>REILLY: Yes. So that’s your point about
it. If we are going to do it, we have to do it right.
>>HOROWITZ: Yes, and it’s similar, you know, with brands we’re going to do it right, with
Enterprise users, we are going to do it right, with minors we are going to do it right.
>>REILLY: Or, at least as close to right as you can get, yes…
>>HOROWITZ: As close to right that we can get, yes
>>REILLY: And hopefully get better.>>HOROWITZ: We’re going to do something we
know is wrong. We’ll learn in the market.>>REILLY: I also see some amount of the push
back is around people feeling like, “Hey, I got a non-standard name.” So, for example,
Violet Blue, you know. Just like, “Hey, you know, I just…”
>>HOROWITZ: Yes.>>REILLY: Yes, got in trouble, it’s my real
name.>>HOROWITZ: Yes, that’s our bad. We’re sorry
and we fixed that particular case. I am sure there are others where we have gotten it wrong.
>>REILLY: Yes, yes.>>HOROWITZ: And, you know, that’s a process
that needs improvement.>>REILLY: Yes, yes. So I mean, obviously
that’s a big part of this. And then of course this the whole question of a lot of the comments
were around, if you have an English sounding name, you’re good, if you have various, you
know, classes of foreign name, you’re much more likely to be rejected.
>>HOROWITZ: Yes.>>REILLY: Is that something that…?
>>HOROWITZ: Yes. It’s something we need to improve. You know, one of the reasons why
we are in limited field trial, I think people take limited field trial as something of an
error cover move on our part like beta, sort of became a meaningless label people applied
to software. Limited field trial really meant two things to us, one is it was limited in
audience and that we’ve done no marketing of the product and to get into the product
you’d have to have an explicit invite, which by the way weren’t too easy to discover in
our product to-date.>>REILLY: Right.
>>HOROWITZ: So it’s limited in scope. But, more importantly it’s limited in feature sets,
so we don’t feel we have the requisite set of features that we need to launch. We don’t
feel we’re launch ready and we’re not ready to sort of open the gates, let the crowds
in, which was frustrating for the users that are in there now, one of the most, you know,
urgent bits of feedback we get is, “I need to get the rest of my friends over.” And we
haven’t made that particularly easier if you tried to do that yet. What we want to do is
make sure we have the product right, we have the process improved so that as we open up
to the world we are doing a better job of this and so the field trial is serving the
purpose of helping us learn where we need to improve and believe me, we are on it.
>>REILLY: Yes. Now, it’s kind of interesting when you talk about not everybody is in. One
the things that I do like is that you can, you know, add an email address. So that it
doesn’t have to be in there. Have you thought about adding for example, Twitter handles
there, so I could basically throw a Twitter handle in there and you do the translations
well and send it out to their tweet stream?>>HOROWITZ: Yes, I mean…
>>REILLY: That would be kind of cool, I guess.>>HOROWITZ: Sure.
>>REILLY: That’s one of the things I’m looking for; somebody has got to break these social
network silos.>>HOROWITZ: Yes. So, you know, we have done
a lot of experimentation in this regard, we had the OpenSocial project. We had PubSubHubbub.
You know there’s various attempts to sort of build federated social networks. I think
one of the reasons why OpenSocial was less successful that it could’ve been is Google
wasn’t really a principal in the space. We had worked it–but it would be helpful to,
you know, have an exemplary social network which sort of demonstrates to the markets
some of the benefits of protocols, openness, data liberation, et cetera. So we aspire to
be that. It will require the APIs that we talked about, that aren’t ready yet. But,
yeah I think users should own their data and if I want my data to land in another service,
conceptually that should be possible.>>O’REILLY: Yes.
>>HOROWITZ: So we’ll get there.>>O’REILLY: You know, speaking of that, I
mean, you obviously, I think–I think of email as a first-class social network. It always
has struck me as a–and, of course, in my phone, even more so. It is–it is my actual
real primary social network. I have people who I can reach on my phone, who I can’t reach
through any other vehicle. You know, my mother is not on any service but the phone.
>>HOROWITZ: Yes.>>O’REILLY: And, you know, it seems sort
of a shame to me that I can’t consider, you know, my phone address book as my primary
social network.>>HOROWITZ: Yes.
>>O’REILLY: And have it all fan out from there. Do you have–what are you thinking
about sort of all–you know, obviously you guys are a big player in phones now. And so
you could potentially see, you know, phone, email, messaging, you know, Circles, all as
part of the same big social network. Which is my real social network.
>>HOROWITZ: We agree with you completely. We have nothing to announce today. We sort
of noticed that too.>>O’REILLY: Yes.
>>HOROWITZ: Yes>>O’REILLY: And again, you know, clearly
what ties it all together is, you know, the divisions are the technology divisions. Well,
it was this technology but what ties it all together is the data. And that again kind
of comes back to this idea that the data is what matters and so normalizing the data,
figuring out that, you know, the people over here are really the same as the people over
here, are really the same as the people over here, is really the Holy Grail to me of social
networking.>>HOROWITZ: Yes, absolutely.
>>O’REILLY: And then taking data from one of these streams and starting to use it to
inform the others.>>HOROWITZ: Yes
>>O’REILLY: You know, so that I can say, “Oh yeah. Okay, yes, you call that person
a lot, when they call you, you call them right back.”
>>HOROWITZ: Right.>>O’REILLY: You know that’s a very special
kind of circle.>>HOROWITZ: Exactly, yes. No, I mean, you
see that a little bit within what we call priority inbox in Gmail, right. So, you should
own not only your contacts but you should also own the analytics that underpin those
contacts. And the fact that you always respond to this individual, you know, within 10 minutes
of receiving the email, is a signal that should offer you some benefit in returning and making
sure the next time they email you that percolates to the top and…
>>O’REILLY: Yes. And you certainly are starting to use that throughout your products. I would
actually love to have it a little bit more in the way of an actual, you know, tool that
only managed that more effectively.>>HOROWITZ: I think that’s a fair request.
>>O’REILLY: Yes, could do, you know, in some sense personal data analytics and say, show
me my top contacts, oh, oh wait. You know, and also I use the other thing is just like,
you know, hey wait, you know you have the wrong phone number for that person and over
here in your email is the correct phone number. You just didn’t manually update it, you know,
what’s–you know, there’s got to be some real data cleaning that’s really possible of processing
data.>>HOROWITZ: Well, you talk about normalizing.
But, the dirty secret of everyone I’ve spoken to that’s worked deeply in the contacts and
particularly the sync space, is that it’s hell on Earth. And, you know, it’s much, much
harder than it looks. It looks like a very simple problem to take fielded data and sort
of normalize it to other fielded data. But the problems that we run into with the ancient
protocols that are used to exchange this data over phones and backend systems lead to all
kinds of problems, duplicate contacts et cetera. I think we’re starting to get over that as
an industry and I think there are better approaches that will lend them self better like, certainly
I think Plaxo was, you know, probably, literally at least five years ahead of their time in
trying to build a cloud resident social address book. We’re fortunate to have Joseph Smart
here, who is one the big contributors on Circles in Google+ in general. But, you know, there’s
a great idea there that’s not yet fully realized.>>O’REILLY: Right. But it isn’t some sense
part of the future you’re working towards. That’s right…
>>HOROWITZ: Absolutely yes.>>O’REILLY: Yes. Jumping more to current
news, what do you thinking of what Facebook announced this morning?
>>HOROWITZ: I think it’s good for users which is exciting for us. I mean, the reason we
wake in the morning is to build great experiences for users. And I think what they did was familiar
and good for users. So, that’s another impact that Google+ can have in the world is raising
the bar of what the expectations and standards around something like privacy should be. So
that’s a great outcome, similar to what I spoke about with OpenSocial. It’s hard to
do that just banging a drum in the wilderness. It’s easier when you have a product that demonstrates,
you know, what can be. And so it’s good for users when the industry notices.
>>O’REILLY: Yes. Bottom line, the competition is good.
>>HOROWITZ: Yes.>>O’REILLY: A lot of things that were familiar
when you launched Google+. And they were, well gee, that’s kind of like Facebook. And
now, you see some things that are denying Google+.
>>HOROWITZ: Yes. Yes, absolutely. And I think that’s fair, yes.
>>O’REILLY: Yes. And of course, I got to put in my obligatory plug, in a world in which
you have lots and lots of design patents that gets very difficult to do. So, let’s…
>>HOROWITZ: That’s a topic I’m not so privy to discuss.
>>O’REILLY: Let’s not make this the worst industry for innovation, please.
>>HOROWITZ: Yes, completely agree.>>O’REILLY: So let me kind of look through
some of these–you know, Twitter–I have so many different question streams. I have them
from Twitter, from Google+, from–some of the questions… Mainstream versus the techie
elite. So the questions come in.>>HOROWITZ: Yes. So, you know, obviously
we skewed toward the techie elite. We still skew in that direction. That’s part of the
launch strategy was to start with googlers and you sort of know who we are. But I think
we have sort of reached some of the fringes–first of all, it’s a very international product.
I’m not going to share exactly the proportions but, believe me most of the usage is outside
of the United States…>>O’REILLY: Well, I’ve heard that for Twitter
too. [INDISTINCT], I mean, yes.>>HOROWITZ: Yes, yes, yes, so that’s not
unexpected but…..>>O’REILLY: And most of the people in the
world are outside the United States.>>HOROWITZ: That’s a good point. Good stuff.
>>O’REILLY: [INDISTINCT]. That’s actually, anything that is a success matter.
>>HOROWITZ: Yes. So most of the googlers are in the United States so it took us some
time before we sort of caught up with the general trend. And it’s exciting to see celebrities
and, you know, not just tech pundits but sort of real people using the service, interacting
passionately. So I think we sort of crossed the chasm out of the Silicon Valley echo chamber
and we’re now sort of starting to learn about what would be helpful to other communities
and we have different needs and, yes.>>O’REILLY: I would think that, you know,
for example hang outs would be great for the TV watching sports community. I know, I remember,
I had two friends who used to watch basketball games, you know, on the phone together.
>>HOROWITZ: Absolutely.>>O’REILLY: Yes. There were so like–that
was sort of the, you know, ’80s era hang out, yes.
>>HOROWITZ: Yes, I mean absolutely. I mean…>>O’REILLY: Yes. So, you can certainly see,
you know, some fabulous, you know, mainstream used cases for share their experience.
>>HOROWITZ: And it not just, you know, sports bar, sort of trivializes the thing. I was
in a hangout the other day with a quadriplegic. And it didn’t occur to me this wasn’t why
we built the product but one of the people in the hangout explained that it’s really
hard for them to operate computers generally. You know, the interfaces are still not what
they could be. And this was a really visceral means of them connecting with other people.
People both that they know and people that they might not know but sort of reconnecting
with the world and that’s powerful and touching and unexpected. We didn’t know that was going
to happen.>>O’REILLY: So, I know you said you didn’t
want to share a lot of stats but, has the hang out feature been, you know, what proportions
of–of uses, sort of traditional, so stream-based versus you know, hangouts.
>>HOROWITZ: So hangouts have been hugely popular, I think. Again, really creative workarounds
to some of limitations of the product today. For instance, you know, then you can have
only have 10 people in the hangout right now. So, for a performer, that’s not especially
interesting, if they’re trying to acquire audience to play for nine other folks. People
have worked around that by Screencasting. With Screencasting clients and creating a
live steam of the hangouts. So there’s nine lucky fans with the performer and then a cast
of tens of thousands that are sort of looking on the stream. And that’s really, really interesting
and it also, again, we’re watching, we’re learning, we’re understanding that, you know,
it might be that a performer wants to have the sort of tiered relationship with lurkers
on one side, people interacting, there’s so many great ideas referred for hangouts, things
like debate format. Where this person gets 3 minutes, this person gets 3 minutes. They
get rebuttal period of 60 seconds, they got a rebuttal period…..
>>O’REILLY: Awesome. I can see a Presidential Debates on data hangout. I like it, I like
it.>>HOROWITZ: Who knows? But these are, sort
of user suggestions that are sort of flowing into us. In terms of absolute usage of hangouts,
I think this 10% limitation is a sort of self-limiting factor about how viral these can be and how
widely they can grow. But, I think there’s a something magic, I don’t know how many hangouts
you’ve been in. And I’m again an anomaly because; I’m involved with the service. So I have a
lot of people that want to hang out and talk about things. So, it’s not a typical experience
but I can sort of post a public hangout and have a really fantastic experience talking
to people in Singapore, in the Philippines, in Mexico and, you know, India and it’s that
serendipity. I mean, in terms of interacting and learning with users, Sergey’s listening
to what they say. Hangouts have been an incredible resource to get direct feedback about our
product, in our product. It’s very cool.>>O’REILLY: You know, do you–you brought
up this interesting thing about the sort of hangout to webcasting?
>>HOROWITZ: Yes.>>O’REILLY: Are there–are there sort of
hacks you’ve seen, that are particularly interesting or used cases that you kind of walk through,
you know, “Oh wow, somebody needs this really a cool thing. A lot of other people might
want to try it?”>>HOROWITZ: well, the–there’s probably been
several hundred at least Chrome extensions for Google+ and most of these are sort of
two or three steps ahead of things that we know and tend to fix but are sort of getting
there first. I saw one the other day that was a pause button. Again, I talked about
the stream being too jumpy and too real-time for people. This is a button, it’s a Chrome
extension, you hit pause and the stream stops and you can type in something or watch a video
without it moving. That’s great, I run these extensions myself. There are others that are
breaking because as we change the product, they depend on CSS and things that we, you
know, reserve the right to change. A lot of the bug reports well, it took us a while to
catch on to this. A lot of the bug reports, the first thing we need to ask are what extensions
are you running because it’s typically the extensions sort of failing in the light of
some new change we pushed. And by the way, we’re pushing an enormous amount of changes
which, yes, for a service of our scale is, you know, I think pretty impressive. The team
is really committed towards, you know, fresh daily builds.
>>O’REILLY: Now, you know, I have no idea where we are on time?
>>MALE: We got another–we’re about at 2 o’clock right now, you got a little more time.
>>O’REILLY: Okay. Okay, good. Just sort of a question about threading, do you think you’ll
add threading to comments? I have a nascent opinion about it that I’m not sure about.
>>HOROWITZ: Well, I’d like to hear that.>>O’REILLY: Okay. Well, at first I was like,
“Gee, I’d really like to have threading. I like to respond to a specific comment.” And
then it occurred to me that I’m doing a different kind of threading when I respond to somebody
by name. And, you know, I thought, maybe it’s actually, you know, a more natural thing not
to have threading and just to refer to something–like if you were sitting in a–in a circle with
a group of people and you want to address somebody specifically, you’d say, “Hey Mary.”
You know you wouldn’t basically go over and sit next to her and that would indicate that
your comment was meant to her, you addressed it to her. I thought, oh maybe it is actually
right. At first I was thinking it was like, “They didn’t get to this yet.” And I thought,
maybe it’s actually right. I don’t–I don’t know the answer to that yet but it occurred
to me. What do you think?>>HOROWITZ: That’s a brilliant insight. I
hadn’t thought about that. I thought, you know, one level of threading and sort of being
able to quickly understand comments in context would be helpful. Like today, recall this
morning, I was looking through the question thread and there was sort of feedback about
somebody’s comment that used the name, the plusing end of the name is a reference. And
I remember hitting, you know, command F and sort of having to jump through with that crude
mechanism to sort of skip to all the comments about that which is a little coarse.
>>O’REILLY: It could be–I guess there are different views. You could kind of…
>>HOROWITZ: Yes.>>O’REILLY: Just sort of say, “Okay, here’s
the way it happened, time on view and here’s the…”
>>HOROWITZ: Yes, I think that’s a great question. I think, you know, the whole question of comments
is a fascinating one and sort of spam and rankings because comments sort of depend on
a sequential narrative that’s evolving in the comments. So, it’s sort of hard to sort
of excise a comment and keep that narrative. So, you know, I guess if you–if I had answered
first, I would have said, “I think threading is probably a good idea.” But, hearing you
speak to that, I mean, maybe I haven’t…>>O’REILLY: There’s some way to rethink threading,
and what would it look like in a new context?>>HOROWITZ: Yes, I think, again what I love
is users and you can probably write a Chrome extension. It took references by name and
reposition those comments or at least indented them or color coded them or otherwise, you
know, there might be many more creative ways to solve this problem that we thought of.
>>O’REILLY: Well, the other thing that I think about is, you know, again maybe my perspective
is skewed being a fairly public person, most of–and most of my posts are public posts.
I get comments from people who I don’t know and who I get to know through their comments.
So I think this is true on my blog as well, you know, the people who I’ve got to know
over the years because when they comment frequently and…
>>HOROWITZ: Yes.>>O’REILLY: …eventually they become familiar.
And its something that occurs to me that there’s almost like a set of implied circles of almost
love to see which is like, oh these are my, you know, my most engaged, you know, conversants…
>>HOROWITZ: Yes.>>O’REILLY: You know, I–the kind of interesting
things to think about there, you know, just like how you could use the data that, you
know, that comes out, yes.>>HOROWITZ: Yes. Well, I think the word implied
circles are implicit circles, is something that opens the door to a million great ideas.
Not only to people who’ve engage with me a lot on the service are the people who would
likely like to hear about kite boarding or the people within this geography. I mean,
there’s so many ways to form circles other than a manual process of, you know, organizing
them or curating them by hand. You can have these implicit circles and I think that’s
going to be a hugely powerful concept and something we’re very attuned to.
>>O’REILLY: Yes. So, if there were one thing that you wanted to get across to the people
who were paying attention to this webcast, what would it be?
>>HOROWITZ: Well, you’ve heard it before; I should look at the camera. You’ve heard
it before, we’re in a limited field trial and your feedback is really, really important.
I can’t respond or we as a team can’t respond to every bit of feedback that we hear. We
look for it, we log it, we register it, we triage it and it’s understood in context.
So, I think there’s a lot of frustration with Google and the fact that there’s so much opportunity
here and people are excited about the product, they want to see us, realize that opportunity.
We’re moving as fast as we can, there are parts of our product which I can’t wait to
announce and are not yet revealed to world and I think we’ll be really significant in
changing the center of gravity of the product and changing how people think about it. These
are not fixing, threading for instance which are absolutely something we must do but rather
new unexpected features that will change how people think of the service entirely. I can’t
wait to launch those and I would beg people’s patience, so that as we get to them, they’re
still with us.>>O’REILLY: So, will some of these things
be launched by September 13th when we get together again at Strada, New York?
>>HOROWITZ: Ask me that question then.>>O’REILLY: So, then you’ll have some things
to announce then…>>HOROWITZ: I hope so…
>>O’REILLY: Okay, that’d be awesome.>>HOROWITZ: Yes.
>>O’REILLY: All right. Thanks a lot Bradley and thank all of you who participated in the
event. We really appreciate you being here. And thank you all who submitted questions.
I didn’t call out any individual, you know, request but they definitely informed the shape
of the conversation. And there were so many of you for example asking about real names,
so, we knew we had to go there.>>HOROWITZ: Yes.
>>O’REILLY: All right.>>HOROWITZ: All right. Thank you.
>>O’REILLY: Thank you very much, Bradley.

12 Replies to “Inside Google+: Bradley Horowitz talks with Tim O’Reilly”

  1. Particularly like Tim's comment about some of the criticisms G+ has gotten. To put in my own words, the service is really, really new. G has it out there, is learning, and appears to have the commitment to evolve the service over time. Let is develop, and give it time!

  2. WTF? Google+ cannot allow pseudonyms because they haven't figured out how to do it? And Tim O'Reilly cannot seem to understand the difference between anonymity and using pseudonyms? I really expected a more intelligent conversation from these two people.

  3. This guy conducting the interview has his nose so far up Google's A.S.S., it is hard to listen to him trying to be objective.

  4. @suprfluo Agreed. Joseph Smarr has made some similar comments on other videos (I can find a ref if interested), talking about the fact that if they do pseudonymity, they want to do it *right*, and that's hard. As you said, if Bradley would make these comments in writing somewhere, it would go a long way towards making people feel that they are at least being heard.

  5. with emotion this time

    a one and a two and a


    god bless anyway

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