Today at his SXSW fireside chat, head of Google+ Vic Gundotra said “I am 100% to blame” for the social network lacking an API seven months after launch. The reason? “Your stream could easily be overwhelmed” if Google allowed third-party apps to post content on users’ behalf.
Additionally, Gundotra criticized Facebook’s inclusion of ads on photo albums and said that only a “very small number of people have turned off social search”.
Gundotra made no guarantee a third-party posting API would be made available by the end of 2012, “I just don’t want to do it because I’ve seen other [platforms] open APIs, develop an ecosystem of third-party clients, and then shut down the API. I’m going to release that API when I’m confident we’re not going to screw over developers.”
The problem with allowing third-party apps to contribute content is that “if ranking is not good in the stream”, single apps could publish too many posts and push out authentic content from the people you follow. Gundotra said that “When Google opens an API, we want you to know we’re not going to revoke access.” Moderator Guy Kawasaki quipped that developers are used to rapidly changing APIs from Facebook, but Gundotra snapped back, “We hold ourselves to a higher standard”.
In this case, Google’s late start on social is holding it back. Facebook has had years to refine its EdgeRank algorithm for sorting the news feed and minimizing the impact of noisy friends and apps. Without such data on who and what its users are interested in, Google+ doesn’t know what to promote and hide
The senior VP of engineering seemed confused, saying “We get these messages that we’re a ghost town” but developers are still eager for access. Well guess what? If users could cross-publish posts to Google+ the way that apps like Path allow syndication to Facebook and Twitter, maybe the network wouldn’t feel so dead. Overwhelmed might be better than underwhelmed