Why Google+ will become Google's only product

Or: How Google+ will crush everyone with 'featurization'

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Google has demonstrated that existing social products are to be replaced by Google+ -- in fact most of them already have been. Page's "relationships, sharing and identity" language is just prelaunch code that means "Google+."

In other words, the Page commandment means that Google+ is the "product," and everything else Google does is to become a "feature" of that product.

If you think about it, the name "Google+" is another way of saying "Google 2.0." Google is radically transforming itself from a company that offers many disconnected, stand-alone "products," into a company that offers one super product with many integrated "features."

How 'featurization' will marginalize the competition

When a major company like Google adds a product to a market with competing products, it validates the market. But when it turns those products into features, it sucks the oxygen out of the market for those products.

For example, once Latitude is an easy-to-use and highly visible feature inside Google+, Foursquare will find it difficult to offer similar functionality in the form of a product.

As Blogger becomes an easily customizable face for a Google+ public stream, Tumblr will have more trouble succeeding with its blogging product.

And so on, for the dozens of major online products that Google will transform into mere Google+ features.

You don't buy and carry a pocket-size point-and-shoot camera when you've already got an 8-megapixel camera feature in the cellphone you always carry anyway. And you don't sign up for online products when that same functionality is already available as an easy-to-use feature on the main page that you're already signed up for.

Why Google will win the war with Facebook

As hundreds of smaller social and online startups are suffocated by Google's aggressive "featurization" of products, we will find ourselves with an Internet dominated by two titans: Google and Facebook.

And between these two giants, it will be no contest. Google will almost certainly have vastly superior search -- it's Google, after all -- superior messaging, superior office documents, superior spam filtering, superior video chat -- superior everything.

Right now, Google+ is viewed as a young and immature "startup" competing against the mighty Facebook. But as Google transforms one powerful Google product after another into Google+ features, Facebook will increasingly struggle to compete.

Google+ by itself looks like no match for Facebook. But the integrated combination of every Google tool is far better and far more compelling than just Facebook -- and collectively those tools already have far more users. And that's where Google is headed.

As Google integrates every major product increasingly into Google+, those products become features, and Google+ becomes the Google product.

I think Google's massive "featurization" effort will marginalize a hundred product markets, and crush Facebook with overwhelming superiority.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and tech culture. You can contact Mike and learn more about him at Elgan.com, or subscribe to his free e-mail newsletter, Mike's List.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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