Google Plus, the US search giant’s latest attempt to take on Facebook in social networking, is set to become a fundamental part of the company’s strategy across search, maps and online video, according to Google’s chairman.
“The whole company is ramping up on top of it,” Eric Schmidt, executive chairman, told reporters at the Allen & Co media conference in Sun Valley.
Mr Schmidt said Plus will bring a new level of personalisation to the company’s diverse web offerings, working across Google products. “The assumption is that everything will move over to using the Plus infrastructure over time,” Mr Schmidt said.
Product improvements in core search, core YouTube, and maps should help drive adoption. “We’re trying to use the identity infrastructure to make the Google products really interesting,” he said.
Mr Schmidt said it was too early to discuss usage statistics for Plus, but that “all the signs are very positive” and the biggest problem was that lots of people were unhappy because they don’t have their invitations. Google has limited the number of people using Plus so it can work out bugs.
“There have been a couple of privacy bugs, which were fixed within a few days,” he said, but added that early privacy concerns were to be expected.
But Plus is not a Facebook knock-off, Mr Schmidt said. “If you read the reviews, people seem to understand that it’s somewhat different from Facebook,” he said. “We have a somewhat different view of privacy. The privacy defaults are different, the way we handle it is different.”
He said that Circles, a feature on Plus that lets users select discreet groups of people to share information with, would become an important part of Google’s other products, such as Gmail and Buzz. “All the products in the company will evolve the Circles function,” he said.
Mr Schmidt also said he believed that Google Plus could become one of the main identity systems for the web, allowing for a greater degree of customisation across various services. “There will be multiple sources of identity and there will be multiple sources of social networks,” he said.
“The issue on the internet ... is a lack of identity,” he said. “And if you had a strong and clear identity there’s a lot of things you could do, again with people’s permission.”
Google has been talking with Facebook for at least two years about sharing data and contacts, Mr Schmidt said. “We would love to have deeper integration with Twitter and Facebook,” he said. But so far, “we haven’t been able to agree.”