Google+ APIs and the lesson from Buzz
Most social media users and application developers I know have one big issue against Google+: lack of an API to write posts to it via 3rd party tools.
While most might feel this is a big drawback, and someone even called it derisively as the ‘stalker API’, I think this not releasing ‘write’ APIs is a very conscious, strategic decision based on the learning from Buzz.
When Google released Buzz, it allowed people to connect some of their existing social networks to buzz and auto-post updates from those networks onto buzz. The problem with this was that most people just enabled that auto-connect and forgot about buzz. Their tweets, reader shares, talk statuses and flickr photos were auto-buzzed, but they never bothered to go in and actively interact there. Add to it the fact that most people who would have read a user’s updates were already following them on other social networks. So, once the followers realised that the users were only cross-posting content there, even they didn’t have any incentive to read the updates there. End result: a zombie network where everyone was ‘posting’ (sometimes even without knowing), and no one was reading.
Google has learnt from that experience and thus this reluctance to provide any ‘write’ APIs. Google also learnt something else from that experience – APIs can be used as a tactical tool to position the network in the market and amongst users.
And this is where its ‘read’ APIs come: assisting, ever so slightly, in making G+ the core content host for its user base.
Using a read-only API, people can auto-post their G+ posts on other social networks, or even list & link them on their blogs and websites. More importantly, using an image-reading API (which Google accidentally announced earlier today), I can use G+ as my photo host for any photos I post on twitter, my blog or almost anywhere else. The 3rd party twitter clients like Seismic, Tweetdeck and Gravity can now integrate G+ image previews using the upcoming API.
So we have a situation where users can’t auto-publish content from other networks to G+ (and thus need to be really active here to have an active stream), but they can use content from G+ to post to other networks (thus reducing, ever so slightly, their active participation on those networks).
Why wouldn’t Google want that?
I’m sure that Google also realises that most people are set in their ways and, without any 3rd party tool integration, will be reluctant to use Google+. And thus, the ‘write’ APIs will come some day. Google is just ensuring that G+ has enough active members using it as the (or a) primary network before it releases those APIs to lure in more users.
[Originally posted on Google+ here]
note2self&others : quick dump of thoughts. Might be edited / formatted later.