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Facebook, Google, and the mirage of "engagement"

I've been struck by a host of stories lately with headlines trumpeting the fact that people spend more time online with Facebook sites than at Google. Google, of course, has played into this narrative by positioning themselves as a social alternative to Facebook. 

What's sad to me is that Google used to pride itself on the speed with which it helped you find the information you want, and then get out of the way.  "Time on site" is a terrible metric for an information utility!

When I'm looking for the answer to a question, when I'm looking for directions or my next appointment, or directions to my next appointment, when I'm getting routed to interesting articles that I want to read, Google provides more utility the less time I spend on site.

There's a real danger here that Google will fall into the Yahoo!  trap, forgetting who they are by pursuing the competition.  Yahoo! was a terrific content destination, and lost its way trying to be a search engine.  Might Google be doing the same in trying to become a social destination?

With a little time to reflect on the Google I/O announcements, I'm disappointed by how many of them were social time wasters rather than real improvements in utility.

I do think social should be an important part of Google's strategy, and overall, I'm impressed by the way they are integrating social across all of their products, but my advice for competing with Facebook is to constantly focus on how to make social data more useful - which may mean less time on site - rather than more "engaging."

Of course, both Google and Facebook time on site is dwarfed by the "time on site" of television, that vast wasteland of passive consumption. That ought to tell us something about the folly of time on site as a metric.

I want services that help me get more benefit from less time online, not services that take me further and further from time in the real world. 

This may be why of all the announcements at Google I/O, I'm most excited about Project Glass.  While the demo for Glass emphasizes how it can be a powerful vector for social sharing of experiences (that skydive was awesome!), Glass will avoid marginalization (I heard several people refer to it as "the Segway of 2012") only by focusing relentlessly on becoming useful rather than becoming engaging.  It will need to slip into the background rather than being in the foreground, a tool for enhancing our engagement with the real world rather than our engagement online.

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91 comments
 
I completely agree.  I use Google products because they are useful not because they take up my time.  We need Google to focus on being Google.  It would be like the New York Times getting upset because some people spent more time reading a gossip magazine then their newspaper, and so they started to insert a lot more gossip instead of informative news so that their "time reading" went up.  
 
The only value in the "time spent onsite" metric is to advertisers who want to osmose into the consciousness of the user base.  Sadly, without them the alternative for users is to actually directly financially support services that provide good utility, and I'm guessing that means both lower numbers in terms of users and the bottom line.
 
Really good point about making technology more useful and how Google can't lose it's focus on that. I remember when the phone Windows 7 came out, Microsoft advertised that you can get in and out and on with your life if you had a Windows 7 phone, that it was quicker to get information from it. Even though in actuality it's not as any quicker than any other phone. I like your point about making technology useful.
 
"I'm disappointed by how many of them were social time wasters rather than real improvements in utility."

Google Now - http://www.google.com/landing/now/ - seems to be a move back towards the idea of utility information, be interesting to see how this works in practice.
 
Amen! That's like random thoughts taken from my head and put into something readable and logical. 
 
"My advice for competing with Facebook is to constantly focus on how to make social data more useful - which may mean less time on site - rather than more "engaging." -> wow, clever !
 
google is doing it better than Yahoo which had so many so so projects that people stopped using them as better alternatives came out. Google is killing products that aren't used.

I played with the Yahoo apps on someone's Smart TV and they were so bad and slow as to make them useless. Made me glad i bought the dumbest cheapest LCD TV i could find a few years back. 

Dumb TV + x-box/apple TV and PS3 is better than paying the premium for included yahoo apps
 
Calling it the "Segway of 2012" makes me think of one of the skydivers pausing to read an email mid-flight. =)
 
I agree. Google doen't have to "copy" what others have done. They'd better feed the empties other does'nt provide for.
 
You certainly have a point that usefulness must be a top priority. Social media is very different from search in one aspect though: there's actually content on G+, and measuring time spent on watching photos, participating in hangouts etc. has to be more relevant than when applied to search. Similarly, you don't measure youtube usefulness by how little time is spent there.

So, while a feature like Events must focus on usefulness, I don't agree that time spent should always be minimized.
 
I realize it's a minor throwaway in the middle of an interesting argument, but referring to television as "that vast wasteland of passive consumption" is about as accurate (and useful) as assigning the same pejorative to books. It's odd that this statement shows up online, where some of the most active engagement with television (and books, and music, and movies, and all culture, popular and other) takes place.
 
Definetely Google scholar Search engine is updated troumendously ..,
 
Not surprising you hear you, of all people, make this argument ... I first became a fan of yours through your "... In a Nutshell" books ("SED and Awk" in a Nutshell basically acted as my work bible in the 90s lol) which are the classic example, IMO, of reduced "time on site."  The beauty of those books wasn't that they were an immersive experience that captured your eyeballs for extended periods, but rather that they allowed you to find the information you needed with a minimum amount of time and effort.  "Time on site" was reduced to it's lowest possible number, leaving Nutshell users to get on with whatever task was at hand.

I largely agree with what you say here ... I just find it interesting that, to me, your Nutshell books exemplify this principle completely.  They were all about delivering information in a fast, easy, almost transparent way, and that's exactly what Google should be striving for.
 
+Tim O'Reilly you're seriously smart, and I agree that Google needs to identify its core competence and lock it in, but I'm not sure I agree that "time spent" isn't a good metric.  It seems to me that if something's useful, we often spend more time using it.  Google Docs/Drive is an online app I spend a lot of time in because it's useful.  Search is simply an intermediary to a destination.  But Google is becoming a relevant destination with many of its other properties.  I think Google's original idea of organizing the world's data is a better description of what it does.  I think social simply helps us better organize our personal data.
 
I am curious why you didn't mention Google Now. That could become a huge time saver. Letting you know of better routes and traffic jams. Reminding you of appointments. It's perhaps the most valuable thing that they announced.
 
TV is what you make of it. The passive junk TV exists because it has a market, just as lying on the beach, watching the sun go down, sitting by a river doing nothing and other passive activities have a reason to exist.

Facebook and the like are at least more social, even if by doing so they offend the elites by reminding them that most of the world is occupied by people whose primary preoccupation is the football, who worry more about whether their clothes make them look fat, or their iphone is appropriately blingy  than about the banking crisis, and are quite happy that way.
 
Very true +Tim O'Reilly ! That's why I'm more excited about Android and Social (+) doing stuff TOGETHER! So the services leverage the social network to plan/organize/predict/notify things and use the device to encourage tasks/mobility/etc. rather than have a person stuck to a computer screen for hours looking at people's status' roll by (I don't get the charm of that).
 
Absolutely the next generation of google technology must reveal on its
continuing google geneology history..!
 
100% agree and I really hope that they are of the same idea... and to say the truth, I think this is exactly what they want to do.
 
Not sure if you realize but time on site is important because they can sell this benefit to advertisers.
 
I also find it interesting how I am personally tending to use google+ more for business and Facebook more for personal. Not sure how that will play out with LinkedIn. Exception: following #startrek celebs on google+!
 
In retail they talk about sales per square foot. I would like to see a metric in social for clicks per thousand hours spent on the site. I would be willing to bet that google search wins that hands down.
 
+Tim O'Reilly Good point. If Google is about providing the Ultimate search experience then finding and digesting that material in a time frame that suits the users needs should be paramount. Not Google's desire to increase time on site metrics!
 
Don't worry +Tim O'Reilly, I don't think Google is trying to compete with Facebook for competition sake here.

Google focus has always been about Search + Advertising. And they've pursued anything that could improve those. Social is something new that provides data that can give you better search results and more relevant ads. And hence can boost Google's revenue in that area. So naturally Google is trying to compete in that area so they don't get locked out of that important data.
 
What is the next step in utility, though?

The problem facing Google now is that they do the things they already do so well, and there is very little room to blow people away with incremental improvements. Google is also a big company, and they no longer take risks (as they used to do with Labs), but they have to do... something. So, you just see them chasing competitors in other markets (social, content delivery, cloud storage, etc) rather than innovating themselves.

Glass is the thing that's supposed to convince us that innovation still lives at Google. Maybe it does, but given how quickly they now shutter any project that's slightly outside of the mainstream, I'm not overly optimistic.
 
I don't post anywhere near as often on G+, but that's primarily because I know the audience here is not just the folks I "hang out" with, but professionals and more public. Not saying that my posts here are particularly erudite (there have been some bad puns, jokes and pictures of food), but in general I put a lot more thought into what goes on my G+ page than on my FB page.
 
I was part of a meeting with Jerry Yang at Yahoo in 1995 or thereabouts. "It's our job to get you in and out as fast as possible," he said then. That attitude sure didn't last long. 
The real danger here, I think, is if Google and Facebook see themselves as media companies. Media companies should be learning from them about service and engagement. 
 
Totally agree, and don't worry, this is something our execs (including Larry) still talk about often. Engagement while spending time socializing is obviously a good indication of whether that experience is satisfying, but there's also a strong focus on communicating and finding information, where as you say "time to task" and successful completion rate are what matter.
 
I think Google Hangout is the best idea as the Google + Facebook social Hangout Media live in the entire Global Social Network in the whole world..! :)
 
+Tim O'Reilly I couldn't agree more. Time on site is merely the goal of the advertisers, not our goal, per-se. I love Google because, apart from it's specifically social component, it doesn't distract me with garbage designed to occupy my time. Time is the one commodity none of us should waste.
 
Social is not just about getting what you want quickly from the other person - eg. hangouts. Lots of learning potential in hangouts. If you watch TV they want you to watch the whole show so you see the ads. Same thing is happening online.
 
Ironically I'm spending time engaging with your content on Google+. I think of this as very valuable.
 
Nobody said Google's direction was to get you here to waste time, or that "time on site" was something they were trying to achieve. If you want cool tools that tell you relevant information about the things around you, the things you and your friends are interested in, or the things your friends recommend, then you need to build the infrastructure and have the data for that first. The only competition with Facebook is just getting you to share your data here instead of there. Once that is happening it will set the stage for the next generation of tools that will get you the information you need, when you need it, and where you need it. So have patience, IMO its just those pawn movements that seem off target until your opponent has you in checkmate.
 
Do people watch TV any more? My worry is that the web is becoming more like TV just a vehicle for the passive consumption of advertising.
 
There plenty more coming up on google integration and products ..!
 
Thank you for this typically insightful post.  Looking forward to seeing you at Zeitgeist later this year.
 
Key quote:  "There's a real danger here that Google will fall into the Yahoo!  trap, forgetting who they are by pursuing the competition."

Competing with Facebook (a platform who many feel is past its prime) is a sure fire way to fail.  You are correct.  Google should just be Google.
 
This is an interesting dialog that indirectly drills down to really interesting questions: "Can the social web be ambient?" & "Do the major players want it to be?"
 
For some people social networks are mostly a one way activity to brain dump or market their business so for them being quickly in and out makes sense. Also, being "too busy" to respond in the comments makes them feel important or superior.
 
Great points.
There have been number of similar comments (see, Pogue of NYTimes, Tsosis of TechCrunch and myriad others) decrying the fact that Google is losing its focus. 
That is precisely the purpose of Google as of now. The loss of focus is intentional. See, which ever way you look at it, Google still is primarily a search company - a one trick pony in the eyes of many.  It is true that no contender has made even a dent in the search citadel of Google.
But who is to say that some kid, somewhere is not right now crafting something so revolutionary and that it turns search as we know it, on its head. The robocar, the Glass and even Google+ are a part of Google's effort to create other killer products that make sure that it stays relevant, even when  something comes along that shakes it off its search perch.  Actually it is a good thing that Google is moving away from the all-eggs-in-search-basket model.

So, yes, it has to keep on improving the amazing information providing tools that just serve what you ask, think and wish and get out of the way but at the same time, it has to build other products that engage and create an emotional appeal for the people.

And, I, for one, am not convinced that the battle with Facebook is a lost one. These are early days. I too am not much enamored of the social movement in general. However, that is not the case with the majority. Connections with other people is what most people crave for, not to find some information from them, but simply because it is a human need - nearly a biological mandate. Social, then, is not a tool for most, it is a fulfillment. It is the purpose of the tools , it is the need they expect the tools to gratify.

To tap into that is every business's dream.
 
Facebook is good for contact with people you know, google is for everything else, including all of the cloud services integrated into a single account.
 
The trouble I (and probably Google) see with search-centrism is that it's becoming harder to monetize simply as "search" UNLESS one keeps the user a little longer within the site to get exposed either directly to more targeted ads, or indirectly to click harvesting for preference data collection.  It's no wonder that Google is exploring its handheld hardware avenues to contain the universe of click data within the device itself.  Glass appears to be another device that will expand click data to "sight" data.

I've always felt that the best technologies are transparent to the user (beyond the learning curve) and Glass is literally going to be that.  Google is thinking long term with all of its hardware development pathways, while I agree that time on site is not a valuable metric, it does offer a superficial indicator of the way users interact with the content on a site.
 
how do you feel about googlenow?
 
I agree with all of those who pointed to Google Now as a great step in the direction of greater utility. I should have given it a shout out.

And of course, +Vic Gundotra I love the engagement with readers here on G+. I just hope Google doesn't get henpecked by media commentary into losing sight of what you are great at. I mainly wrote this post with an eye towards launching the idea that time on site is a lousy metric with which to judge the competition between Google and Facebook.
 
I think that most mistake is that some are comparing Google to Facebook.Google is Google and facebook is something I Google on Google lol. I have no respect left for Facebook,they lie and hold us as hostage on facebook.Since the change to many things and the format of Groups and Pages.The new format you can only see posts by new friends or friends you have made a comment with lately.So much is missed now.Before with Groups and Pages you could Promote so much better.Now one does not have to become a Fan(Like) to view photos Links or Post a comment.People do not click on the side ads because we have learned from the past not to,virus spam etc.I have no problem with Privacy but I am a adult and have a problem with youth trying to protect themselves.If they can even find the settings through the maze of clicks.To many places to lock down.
 
Google NOW being a great step towards drawing patterns from the mass of information - and not just throwing the mass of information in our collective face for us to process. 
 
The fact that we are having this conversation in this forum and not on Facebook( I think hardly anyone will  try Facebook to exchange serious thoughts)  is an endorsement, that the two platforms are serving two different needs, as long as Google keeps that in mind and plays the social game in their unique way we will not need to go down to the Google or Facebook conversation path, their are multiple way to play the social game and one need not ape the other.  
 
I think seeing the "social game" as pretty much just a 'stream' on a webpage is very yesterday :D 
 
I think that the engagement on G+ occurs because the G+ streams can be seen as curated, useful content. What allow us to curate content, apart from our own interests and expertise, are the tools we have, to filter noise, to select sources, to sort and classify. These tools are present on G+. Put simply, the more control you put in the hands of the users, to choose what they see and say, allows higher quality of both information and interaction. Engagement is a side effect, like when we have nice tools in our garage and we start building things, simply because we can :-)
 
I like the fact that Google plus is a virtual community of people with shared interests. I find this more interesting and valuable than taking existing friend communication to an online medium.

The value of FB is simply an extension of communication with your so-called friends. The value of G+ is sharing and consuming thoughts (or other content like photos) with like minded people.

As a result I've shifted to spend much more time on G+ than FB. Although I think that is a horrible metric, but does feed the ad revenue beast. I think a better metric would maybe be around the passion and loyalty of your users. Ultimately this is what makes them want to stay or go.
 
I think google could easily fix this by making the links in search open in a new tab or window rather than leaving Google to get to the site. This would also make it more convenient to have the search still available rather than having to click the back button to get back to google search. Most people are just playing games on FB anyway though. Games don't really mean anything. 
 
My network of friends on Facebook really don't have a wealth of knowledge to share. Not that they are dumb, but all the experts are on Google+ because they know that someone here will take an interest in expanding their mind and discussing ideas in depth. Facebook friends are about as deep as a sheet of ice.
 
+Elron Steele excellent point about O'Reilly books.  Especially in an age where other publishers pushed for high page counts, both to appear massive, and to simply crowd out competition back when physical shelf-space mattered, ORA tended toward thin, technically dense, accurate, and useful publications. Not always, and yes, there have been stinkers.  But that always seemed to be the ethos.  Rather much like Unix itself.
 
I rather like your comparison to TV to demonstrate the limits of the time-on-site metric. Of course, both Google and Facebook time on site is dwarfed by the "time on site" of television, that vast wasteland of passive consumption. That ought to tell us something about the folly of time on site as a metric.
 
The backbone of Google has always been its search functions.  It is how they make money.  What is really strange is that they would even consider shutting down iGoogle which is a direct path to their search engine...the place they make money.  I suppose this demonstrates that even smart sharp google executives can make some really dumb decisions.  It sort of reminds me of people purposely shooting themselves in the foot while trying to win a foot race.
 
I don't think Google is worried that people spend more time on Facebook than Google.  Apple vs other computer manufacturers proves that focusing on quality is much more profitable than focusing primarily on quantity.  I've spent and will spend money on Google products.  I can't think of one thing I'd spend money on that would go into Facebook's pocket.

What Google (IMHO) seems to be doing is ensuring they have that minimum level of devoted users they need so that when they need to make their move, they can leverage those users to create a self-sustaining process.  Apple did this with the iPod and iBook, Google will do it with apps like Google+ and perhaps, Project Glass.
 
I have to disagree. While some people like us prefer to be quick and effective, many others enjoy spending their time online and being engaged with their friends, families or in general. They are not looking for information but entertainment. Google needs to have good footing in this area as well to compete with Facebook on all fronts.
 
We are not in disagreement. If you seek information on a subject (a passion) you would use Google+ if it is entertainment you seek, the big party where you know everyone is the way to go.  
 
+Steven Rubio I hear you that there is lots of good television as well as lots of bad, just as with any other form of media. My reference to "the vast wasteland" of television was a specific evocation of Nelson Minow's famous 1961 speech Television and the Public Interest. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wasteland_Speech  
 
+Hemant Shah I'm tired of hearing the "Google is a one-trick pony" comment. In my daily work, I use Google search, Gmail, Google Docs, the Chrome browser, an Android phone, Google+, Google Maps, and more. They provide an unparalleled range of useful applications.
 
+Tim O'Reilly Thanks for the reply, Tim. I got the reference to Minow, and there was perhaps some truth to it at the time he spoke. Now, though, when we are in what I'd call a "golden age" of television programming, it needs to be reconsidered. I agree with you that passive consumption of media isn't generally helpful (although sometimes it feels good). But not only is the best TV better than ever, the interactive response of the audience is greater than ever, as well. Having said all of that, your argument overall is quite compelling.
 
+Tim O'Reilly, I couldn't agree more. I am myself a fan of Google's products, including the ones that it has provided to make developers more productive. That said, Google is still a search company; a overwhelming proportion of its profits comes from search and related services.  I look forward to the day when it is recognized, even by the bean counters, as more than that. 
 
As long as Google focuses on the utility aspects of Project Glass, I think all will be well. Developers will dream up interesting social tools if the product is worthwhile.

While Glass demos so far have leaned heavy on pointing out smartphone-like features, I would imagine Google wants to integrate many of its powerful tools into the device itself. My imagination wanders to the thought of how useful Glass could be while doing research at a library if you had access to the wide variety of tools that Google provides online available on a portable HUD. Or perhaps the ability to load a schematic or diagram up visually while keeping both hands occupied on a project.

If Google focuses its current and future efforts on providing strong functionality over menial social nonsense, I think we'll look back at these Google to Facebook comparisons and realize Facebook was the one falling behind all along.
 
It's crucial for Google to continue to tinker with various side projects (even if they no longer formally have Labs or 20% time in the way they used to) as these do contribute to advancing their overall mission (to index all the world's information and make it accessible via search) - look at tiny projects like Chrome to Phone which have led to Chrome synced Tabs for example.

There are examples from other companies: Kinect at Microsoft, HP's mobile website optimization platform, etc.

Google is using "Social" to tie myriad products together and drive traffic between them - if users want to. There's no forced lock-in (a la what Yahoo initially did with Flickr, forcing users to have Yahoo accounts to access a formerly agnostic service).

Google continues to iterate their core search service: Now, the Knowledge Graph, one box, etc.

The most challenging, most hotly contested area (because it offers the most longterm upside) is Mobile, specifically monetization thereof - no one has yet figured out the right way to implement and serve ads on mobile (Twitter has provided one reasonable example) and so much more work needs to be done here. Google is well placed because of the large installed Android user base.

Engagement becomes important when it's viewed across the panalopy of Google's ecosystem: Search, Gmail, Android, Chrome, You Tube, Plus, etc... If Google succeeds in moving users between these various products without locking non-users out (i.e. maintaining the "open" web) that's not a bad place to be. 
 
Time Spent is an excellent metric for ecommerce sites. The more a consumer spends on an ecommerce site, hopefully the more products they want (or need) to purchase in the near future. Though, when I am seeking information I will do my best to optimize time. (Time is precious commodity to me.) I don't want to spend hours looking for information I need right now. As a society, the internet as turned us into an ADD nation - want it right now.  So aside from ecommerce websites, I agree with you +Tim O'Reilly, time spent on a website isn't necessarily always a good metric.  

On a side note, I'm interested in the recent developments towards social commerce (F-commerce) that Facebook is slowly getting ready to launch. Social commerce will revolutionize the way consumers make purchases. With Google continuing to position itself as a social destination, I'm curious if we'll see a push towards social commerce (G-commerce) on Google+.  http://techcrunch.com/2012/07/03/little-want-button-code-forshadows-big-things-for-facebook-ecommerce/  
 
LinkedIn makes $1.30 for every hour someone uses the site. Facebook makes only 6.2 cents. [More useful==$. More time spent != $]
 
Project glass is without a doubt a grand leap into information on demand.  And as long as you trust that it is coming from a benign source then we have a future world without constraint.  But I do wonder sometimes about our willingness to simply accept that these tools are without an agenda counter to our own sense of independence.  I suppose the social interaction tools could actually be the herding pens whereby hidden agendas coax public gullibility. 
 
I keep hearing from Tech bloggers that Google is "just" a Search company, as if cataloging and making accessible the entire breadth of human knowledge is a trivial task. The only thing Google is missing is connecting people with things they don't know they don't know. I believe that's where Google+ comes in. By adding in a social fabric Google becomes more than just a search engine, but a discovery engine. I'd go even further and say it's becoming a knowledge engine. Most everyone wants to compare Google+ to Facebook, but I'd compare it to a French Salon during the Age of Enlightenment, it has that much potential.
 
For those pointing to Project Glass, I think that's spot on. So, yes, Yahoo appeared laser focused on keeping up with the googles, but its Brickhouse never seemed so innovative as X Labs. I think the forward-looking projects there will keep Google in the hunt for a long time coming, irrespective of whether Google+ becomes a huge social media wasteland, which judging by the hearty commentary here does not seem to be a threat. And is it so bad if the vermin overpopulation that chokes FB won't follow here? It's not like FB has figured out how to make a boatload of money yet. All this to say that while Google faces threats and challenges, it's a damn sight better off than Yahoo was.
 
I think that social networking will really come into its own once it starts being a tool for collaboration. A vehicle for like-minded people to bump their ideas off each other and launch cool projects, be it in the sciences or technology or even the arts. I guess social networking in the enterprise is really about all that, but it needn't remain restricted to it. Entertainment is great, but most of the time people are actually working. What better way to work than being always in a team, receiving real time feedback at each step, be it in a scientific calculation you are doing or in writing code or in designing something. Scientific calculations or design would need tablet input, where one can scribble formulae or draw something that can be shared in real time, which is something so useful that I wonder why people haven't thought of earlier.
BTW, I think this is a great discussion, and sorry for my somewhat off-topic post.
 
I think you are spot on as usual.  I'm certainly a huge fan of Google and have always thought they had the best mission: Organize all of the world's information and make it universally accessible and USEFUL.  Simple but brilliant.  Going away from that mission could spell a Yahoo! sized disaster.    
 
Sure, there's a risk. I argue in +The Age of the Platform that almost always the risk of inaction is greater than the risk of action. What happens if social search supplants index searches? Google could be disintermediated. Give Larry & Sergey credit for being proactive.
 
+Phil Simon I give Larry and Sergey lots of credit for being proactive. The social mandate is great. But "party mode" on photos is not what makes me excited about G+ or Google products. Mainly, though it was couched as a message to Google, my post was intended to be a warning to journalists not to judge Google by the same metrics they judge Facebook.
 
Oh, come on, Tim. Party mode makes you little excited! :)
 
Google events is cool I just wish you could make events private or public, and the public ones could be browsed through by anyone.
 
All kidding aside, +Tim O'Reilly , I'm with you about not wanting to maximize my time on Google--at least intentionally. Still, as you know, all of these platform companies are trying to get users to spend as much time as possible on them. Hence, the creation of new planks like Plus, Docs/Drive, etc.
Moz Le
 
I think it might also be phrased the other way: time on site is the perfect metric. The longer it takes to get what you want, the worse the search engine is.
 
+Somdatta Bhattacharya, I agree, I believe the "plus" of google+ is collaboration.

When you can work with partners in a hangout editing a document and updating your site, all on your Chromebook,  you will never need to leave the Google domain.  That's a metric you can sell!
 
Let Google meet its fate (self-made) We'll have something better in future. The bottom line is that no one cares for the people...every effort of them is to make $$$$....
 
+Mousumi Saha Kumar - Really? Look at Google a bit more closely. Its list of philanthropic efforts is way too long to list here.
 
+Tim O'Reilly "When I'm looking for the answer to a question, when I'm looking for directions or my next appointment, or directions to my next appointment, when I'm getting routed to interesting articles that I want to read, Google provides more utility the less time I spend on site."

Google's decision to shutter iGoogle is exactly the type of decision that runs counter to the idea that you posed above. While I appreciate the Mobile paradigm on a Mobile device, I think that it is ill-suited for the desktop environment. A Dashboard utility such as iGoogle is much better suited for the Laptop/Desktop model, and doing away with it is doing a great disservice to the users of their products, be they Gmail, Calender, Reader, Tasks, or Android Devices.

The alternatives Google has suggested (implied really as they have made nothing as useful as a suggestion for an iGoogle replacement) with the alternatives being direct competitors of Google, which seems a terrible business decision, or third party providers of Dashboard services which unnecessarily exposes the Android/Gmail user base to unnecessary third party risk over their data should they choose to expose their Google account to these third party applications as the alternative to iGoogle seem at best short-sighted.

While some have rightly pointed out that the users of the free services that Google provides are not their customers, it seems that Google has lost sight that these users of their free services are actually the product which they are selling to their customers. It is the targeted advertising based on all of the data which Google has mined from our emails and search histories that Google makes its revenue from. If they do not cultivate that product, instead turning their backs on that base of users, they will run the risk that lose a valuable asset in the process. It are those eyes and those clicks that they count on to make their money, and if those eyes and clicks are looking at Bing or Live or Yahoo or Netvibes instead, then Google is losing revenue to those competitors.
 
I agree. As a publisher of a content site it baffles me that Google values time on site. Isn't it more important that people get the information quickly. If someone lands on my site through Google and it takes them a long time to find the info they're looking for that should be a negative thing, not positive. 
 
Agree.  Less is certainly more.  And, why DO people spend more time on Facebook?  Because it can be so gawd-aweful slow?
BAG GAB
 
+Tim O'Reilly the Honeymoon period is over for me.  I was willing to run through these posts to give g+ a lift.  Now I'm tightening up to Tech and Arts.

I didn't comment on your Soap Post, but, yes Madmen of Madison Ave have perfected the Ripoff.
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