"Sorry Google, Plus Local without a Platform won't save Google Plus"
6 days ago, I posted this on Google+
The response from a Googler was that "I don't have anything new to share right now". The following day, Scoble stated that he had heard they will announce a Write-API at Google IO.
Except,Zagat? Really? Youhonestlythink you can jam that down people's throats? How many attempts has that been now to beat Yelp and TripAdvisor? All of them flops.
We've closely watched reviews on Places since they removed all Third Party content and,unsurprisingly, it's a graveyard, just like Google+. We know plenty of SEO people who try to cajole people into writing reviews on Places. Not because Places is any good but because Google highlights its own reviews in the SERPs over organic results and doesn't put them where they belong, in the ads section at the top. And lets be absolutely clear, that's what they are, Ads for Google.
The ever growing outcome of this is that people are losing trust in the search results. They are no longer the best results, they aredisguisedads.
So now we have the same trick all over again, this time on Google+. They are using the fear of not appearing well in the fiddled search results to get businesses to use Zagat reviews on Google+ instead of providing a PLATFORM for businesses.
I criticise Facebook relentlessly but this is one thing they have done 100% correctly and they have handed Google its ass on a plate. By providing rich APIs and a Platform where businesses can build whatever they want, you get real innovation. Facebook doesn't dictate. As long as you aren't doing anything nefarious, they want you to do what you like.
Google cannot overcome their centralised command and control mind-set. The thought of letting businesses and users do whatever they damn well please on a Google property fills them with dread. "What do you mean you want to put your reviews on Google+? No no no, Zagat only." This is Google's fatal flaw. They don't trust anyone to have good judgement. They know best. Meanwhile Google+ remains a graveyard apart from the hardcore group of SEO people trying to figure out how they can game the search results.
Google, the only way to save Google+ is to turn it into a PLATFORM, not a destination. You have lots of very smart people working for you. But there are a lot more smart people out there who don't work for Google. They are the ones who'll come up with your next big leap forward, not you. Enable and facilitate those people instead of hawking some hackneyed old "it's Google's way or the highway" mentality.
If a full rich Platform with Write-API access is not announced at Google IO, you can expect to see the Google+ brand to disappear before the end of 2012.