YouTube announced Tuesday that it will soon require users to log in through Google+ to make comments on videos.
The purposes of this move, according to YouTube, are to increase the quality of comments on the site and to give users the comments they care about by connecting to users’ Google+ Circles. YouTube wants users to be able to see the most relevant comments, rather than the most recent. The changes will be fully implemented later this year.
Comments listed near the top of a video for each user will be from people in that user’s Google+ Circle, popular posters, people participating in discussions about the video, and of course, the video’s creator. Users can set their comments to visible to everyone or just to certain people in their Circles.
YouTube also promises new tools to help video creators moderate comments.
These features will likely lead YouTube to success in increasing the quality of notoriously poor comments sections. The site’s less savory commenters will not likely be committed enough to register for Google+ for purposes of comparing things to Hitler or spamming their website links.
Furthermore, the new features allow people who are interested in having conversations on YouTube to do so; under the old comments system, it was very hard for people to keep track of one another, as most comments were displayed with the newest first from the top.
As Selena Larson of ReadWrite points out, it is clear that Google also intends to use its new YouTube functions as a means of getting more people to use Google+.
Because Google accounts allow access to all Google tools and websites, Google+ has a very high number of users. In other words, anyone who has a Gmail account automatically has an account for Google+.
For people who already have Google accounts, leaving YouTube comments will be as simple as logging in, even if they are using a different account than before. Some will even create Google+ accounts for commenting on YouTube.
But will these new rules and tools really get more people to use Google+?
Nielsen reported earlier this year that in March, the average visitor to Google+ spent a mere 7 minutes per month on the site. In the same month, the average visitor to Facebook spent 6 hours and 44 minutes.
While these figures do not include activity from mobile apps, the difference is still vast enough to indicate that people do not have much interest in Google+.
In a post for ReadWrite earlier this year, Matt Asay said Google had demonstrated only why Google+ is beneficial for Google; not why it is beneficial for users.
“There happens to be a product at plus.google.com and an app. But really it’s a way for Google to get to know our users,” said David Glazer, director of engineering for Google+. “Who they have relationships with. We give them the ability to share. That layer, that spine, that backbone, is intended to help us make search, Maps, YouTube, Gmail, etc. better. That’s the real point of Google+.”
When I read that explanation, I don’t see any reasons users would want Google+.
A further problem with Google+, Forbes contributor Robert Hof points out, is that Google+ has done little to distinguish itself from Facebook. Why, then, would anyone want to use Google+ when they are already involved in Facebook?
The most compelling argument comes from Linda Sherman, consultant and former CEO of Club Med Japan. Sherman told Forbes that people can effectively use Google+ to market themselves and their businesses because the site’s small number of users allows people seeking professional connections to be more visible to influencers than even LinkedIn.
Sherman also noted that early adopters can garner large audiences on a new media platform before the platform becomes huge.
While both of these aspects of Google+ are useful for jobseekers, entrepreneurs and social media enthusiasts, I wonder how applicable they are to wider audiences.
There is definitely a strong interest in using social media, but the tiny amount of time people spend on Google+ compared to Facebook makes me think the demand for multiple Facebook-like platforms is not what Google thinks.
Tumblr, Pinterest and Twitter have their own distinct functions that differentiate them from Facebook. Google+ has some differences, but unlike the aforementioned sites, the fundamental purpose of Google+ is the same as Facebook.
Did Google supply a product without a demand?