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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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The Google+ Long Game Is Brilliant

Comments (587)

I’m finding myself using Google+ more and more. I recently decided that the long game Google is playing is absolutely brilliant. They are being understated about it but doing exactly what business strategists talk about when they describe the long game as the one to play.

Rather than making a bunch of sweeping pronouncements, struggling to jam together a bunch of random crap in a big bang release, and then worry about staying involved in a feature race with a competitor, Google is continually experimenting with new functionality, rolling it out broadly in a fully integrated fashion on a continuous basis, and providing it as a core part of an ever expanding thing that is getting more and more useful by the week.

By now I hope you are saying something like “What the fuck is he talking about – Facebook is crushing Google+” or something like that. Yeah, whatever. That’s why it’s the long game that they are playing.

Here are some examples.

I live in GmailSuddenly, I found this magical thing called Circles to be useful. When I get behind on my email, I simply go through a few of the circles (Foundry, Foundry Ents) and clear the email from my partners, my assistant Kelly, and the CEOs I work with. I have persistent chat up – I find that 80% of my chats now go through Gchat (the other 20% are Skype, and they are almost always requested by someone else.) And now that there are Hangouts integrated, many of these are videos.

Google Voice is my Phone NumberI used to have desktop phones. I don’t anymore – I have a Google voice # and an iPhone. I give everyone my Google voice #. It works everywhere. I never think about what phone I’m using anymore. And I do many calls via the computer.

Google Hangouts is my new Calendar Invite. I hate the telephone. Hate hate hate. But I don’t mind chat. And I don’t mind a Google Hangout / video call. All of a sudden I can make invites from Google Calendar that are Hangout invites. Done – every phone call / conference call is now a Hangout.

I live in ChromeI have several computers. I never notice the difference between them. I’m downstairs at my place in Keystone right now on my Macbook Air. When I go up into my office, I’ll be on my treadputer with a different Macbook Air (an older one) connected to a 27″ monitor. I switch regularly between the two throughout the day and don’t even notice.

Now you are thinking “Ok Brad, but other than the Hangouts, Circles within email, and Hangouts within Calendar, what are you using Google+ for?” Just those three things have completely changed my workflow massively for the better. And they just showed up for me one day – I didn’t have to do anything.

In 2012 I used all the normal Google+ stuff. I reposted content there. I followed people. I occasionally chatted, commented, or +1ed. Facebook-like features. But I didn’t care that much about that stuff – yet.

All of a sudden I’ve got Communities. I’ve got Events. I’ve got Pages. And Hangouts, and Circles integrats seamlessly with each of these things. And they are nicely integrated with Gmail and Calendar. And suddenly I can do On Air Hangouts. And, I can record them automatically and save them to my Youtube channel. Keep playing for another few years, user by user, company by company, integrated feature by integrated feature.

Yeah, it drives me batshit that Google still things I’m brad@feld.com, brad@foundrygroup.com, brad@startuprev.com, and brad.feld@gmail.com. Some day they’ll integrate these. And as I approach 25,000 contacts, I’ll probably start bitching about how this limit is ridiculous, just like I did at 10,000. But I can deal with all of that.

Google – thanks for playing the long game here. I wish more companies, especially other tech companies, did this especially when they have massive resources. Sure – some think they are playing the long game, but they are really playing the short game with a bunch of things that take a long time for them to get out the door. Different game.

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  • http://twitter.com/HipperElement Joel Marsh

    I like this article because it is completely at odds with how I interpret Google’s product ecosystem.

    IF they are playing a long game, (i.e. — making it possible and waiting for it to slowly fall together) I could be persuaded to see that as something brilliant.

    However, the way I had/have seen it so far is that they are just bad at designing for people. I presented it more thoroughly here: http://thehipperelement.com/articles/google-doesnt-understand-people/

    They are relying on the user to discover the compatibility of various things, and using the “try everything, see what works” strategy. Maybe you’re right, and they are big enough to try enough things in a reasonable period of time to make that work.

    Again, great article. I will think about this more.

    • @FakeBradFeld

      Let me guess, Apple Fanboy? Google is smart to iterate quickly and see what works. Very smart and effective.

      • http://twitter.com/HipperElement Joel Marsh

        Haha, not at all! I love Google in general. And I think their strengths far outweigh their weaknesses in the big picture. It is more of a general trend I see in the things they make overall. If the impressive part is what they do with data, it tends to be successful. If the main goal is intended to get certain behavior out of people, it often doesn’t go their way.

      • http://www.feld.com bfeld

        Actually, I’m an Apple Fanboy also. I don’t think the two have to be mutually exclusive.

        • @FakeBradFeld

          I know you are an Apple fanboy (still not sure why), but my comment was after reading the link he posted – Google bad, Microsoft bad, Apple genius. You are correct not mutually exclusive.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I think Google USED to struggle with this – say, go back in time a couple of years. I think the new regime has dramatically changed that.

      • http://twitter.com/HipperElement Joel Marsh

        That’s the perspective that has intrigued me with this post. I hadn’t really considered the sheer vastness of what Google can do at once, which makes the idea of a long game far more interesting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nielrobertson Niel Robertson

    I’m with you on your last comment 100% about nielr@trada.com, nielr@instinctventures.com, etc.. I remember when LinkedIn fixed this years ago, my usage went from 0 to daily. Its amazing to me Google has not addressed this one. I believe its the #1 issue holding real potential users back.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I’ve heard from many of my Google friends that “this is just around the corner.” For the past three years. Given their scale and architecture, it must be an incredibly difficult technical problem.

      • DaveJ

        Perhaps there is more to it than technical difficulties. While all three of us lead relatively integrated lives (work, personal, community), you should sometime read one of the PIIAs we make everyone sign. All of your email is belong to us. So the trick for Google is maintaining this separation in ways that vary from not-at-all to strict to anything in between without creating surprising results that, for example, put company intellectual property in a personal bin.

        • http://blame.ca Dick Hardt

          Unfortunately Google has only been playing the short game in identity.

          • http://www.feld.com bfeld

            Dick – you would know! They should hire you tomorrow to fix it all up for them.

  • http://moz.com/Rand Rand Fishkin

    And those certainly aren’t the only big things Google’s pushing with G+. In order to have a Google Places page (which means you can claim a local business listing in Google Maps/Local), you need to have a Google+ account that it’s linked to. New Android devices have, for the last year+ come integrated with Google+ – your cameraphone photos auto-upload when you’re on wifi, and your email address is automatically part of Google+.

    What’s more, since you’re a blogger, you need to have Google+ to get the rel=author listing in search results (the one where it shows a picture of you next to the articles you write in Google’s results).

    G+ isn’t just a long game, and it’s not really a social network, it’s how Google plans to make sure they can deliver the most relevant advertising to you, and that means knowing everything about you. I don’t mean that in an evil way – it’s actually quite a good idea, so long as everyone knows what they’re opting into. Personally, I’d rather see more relevant ads, and just be very careful about what I share on the web, knowing that all of it will be tracked, stored, and used.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      “and that means knowing everything about you.” – that’s a key part of what I mean by long game. Remember, I believe the machines have already taken over and are just waiting patiently for us to catch up with them.

      • http://twitter.com/smjasmin Steven Jasmin

        I completely agree! To this day I still try to share content on my g+ feed. I am happy some people may see it or want to follow it, but honestly i consider every gshare fine tuning my algorithm within Google’s servers, hoping one day that it will help Google know me better to help fine tune the fire hose of data that is the big data world we live in. I am really anxious for buffer to start supporting it so its seamless with my other syndication through buffer. Its really irritating having to do both still.

        • http://www.feld.com bfeld

          I talked to Joel @ Buffer yesterday. I expect he’ll have this very soon.

    • http://engag.io/ William Mougayar

      “so long as everyone knows what they are opting in to”

      Do we really know what Google+ or Facebook or the biggies know about us? 

      I’d like a feature in all these networks where they reveal exactly what they know, what they learned, what they are using or not using about me. 

      • Ajay

        Google does provide a lot of info in your accounts page, especially the account dashboard, account activity, and ability to download all your data. I don’t think they provide any info on ‘inferred’ data – i.e. what Google has inferred about you. Would be interesting to see that.

        • http://engag.io/ William Mougayar

          Exactly. How they use the data would be very interesting.

          • http://blog.kwiqly.com/ James Ferguson @kWIQly

            However William -

            If I maintain a neat JSON record somewhere about me I can probably read it, name address fields etc etc – it corresponds to things I know about myself – so I understand the context.

            But if I want to understand what Google can infer from that I need to know the context of their inference engine. This is a very different problem…

            Lets take an example.

            Suppose they know relative to neighbours in my socio-economic cluster that I am more likely to click on a link referring to my proven interest in collecting wide mouth frog jokes than my relatively less likely interest in means to brew a nice cup of tea in a chocolate teapot.

            Then they may infer that they are better to show me the less interesting ad, because the opportunity cost of showing me the more interesting one might hurt their revenues – currently. (this knowledge shifts within the context of current advertising spend splits between joke shops and chocolate teapot shops in my locality and movements into and out of the area and the collective context of all my neighbours).

            Now what they have inferred or might infer is effectively infinite and ephemeral (and I have no chance of understanding the context as I do not have access to their inference engine or its data contexts that are not specific to me) .

            So what (in any meaningful sense for Joe Public) are you suggesting they show me ?

      • http://www.feld.com bfeld

        Assume they know a LOT more than you think they know.

        • http://engag.io/ William Mougayar

          That’s exactly what I’m suspecting. That’s why I’d like them to divulge it. It’s beyond what’s in the Accounts or Settings page. The analogy is a bit like when you ask for your Credit Report and you see all kinds of interesting stuff. You see your credit score, you see the creditors inquiries, etc… You see how they see you with more transparency. I think we need to ask for the same from the social networks or anyone processing your social data. There should be a button that says “What we know about you” or “How we use your data”. Currently, it’s buried in the Privacy policy which is clouded with legal and general lingo.

  • http://twitter.com/HardMoney Sean Goodwin

    I totally agree! The ones that “get it” end up doing their work for them by not only using the apps as solutions, but because they work, they share and grow the whole G experience to other networks of users. By focusing on problem solving and less on fanfare they continue to grow their base in a manner that may make them irreplaceable.

  • ajay kulkarni

    yes yes yes. the thing that most people don’t realize (and it took me a while) is that the value in google+ isn’t it being a destination (like facebook) but instead a social fabric with which to tie all the google properties together and build an identity for you.

    also, speaking of the long game, it’s becoming clearer that google as a whole has been thinking bigger and more long term since Larry came back. self-driving cars, hiring kurzweil, everything else at google x, that’s some serious (and fun) stuff.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Yup – you can see the long arc via their R&D in a way that is directly linked to the premise of a future society where the machines are fully integrated members of it.

      • ajay kulkarni

        and thanks to their R&D, google – for the first time in a while – is suddenly the most exciting established company in the valley. not Facebook, not twitter.

        makes me wonder if that’s happened before in tech. usually the dinosaurs just get older and slower (and eventually extinct).

        • http://twitter.com/smjasmin Steven Jasmin

          Amazon and Google are the two main innovators in my opinion. Apple is quickly becoming the luxury tech brand for consumer electronics. What sharper image always tried to do but could never succeed at. Google was smart enough to say fsck the 1% and go after everyone else….

          • http://www.feld.com bfeld

            I don’t think I agree with Apple. I still see enormous innovation coming from them. Ironically, other than OS, software has never been the think Apple has been awesome at. They are awesome at OS, but I give you Pages and Numbers as examples. But I continue to be amazed at every iOS release, at least for a few weeks.

          • tuppermd

            Ditto that… Keynote is awesome though!

          • http://www.feld.com bfeld

            True – that’s the only one. And I hate hate presentation software.

          • http://blog.ricardodiz.com/ Ricardo Diz

            I think Apple is just way ahead everyone else when it comes to hardware manufacturing.

            On the other hand, IMO Apple still hasn’t learned how to play the Internet/cloud game (e.g., think me.com, iCloud,…). I would say Apple OS SW falls in the middle (e.g., they do have some cool innovations, but they are not that ahead of the game – case in point, Windows 8 interface).

          • http://www.feld.com bfeld

            I continue to feel that Apple has amazing hardware, amazing OS that is tightly integrated with the amazing hardware, medium quality productivity apps, medium quality consumer apps, and shitty business apps.

            The cloud stuff has to be at the OS layer for it to work for them.

            Oh – and they have amazing retail, merchandising, and supply chain managment.

          • http://blog.ricardodiz.com/ Ricardo Diz

            Indeed, it will be fun to see when they can have some outstanding cloud stuff as well.

            Maybe they should just buy a company that brings some good know-how in that area…

          • http://twitter.com/Quikchange Antonio D’souza

            For apps that aren’t strategic priorities, Pages and Numbers are quite good.

          • http://www.feld.com bfeld

            I disagree. I tried to use them a year ago. Totally ineffective. Given the rapid adoption of Macs in the enterprise the past few years, Apple would have made even more progress if they really went after Microsoft Office with a low cost (or even free) alternative.

          • http://twitter.com/smjasmin Steven Jasmin

            I am not embedded in the eco system enough to catch the bleeding edge. Chances are the true answer lies somewhere in between our two opinions….I would hazard to say more on your side then mine.

  • http://twitter.com/justinbenson justinbenson

    I’m finding the exact same thing. I moved from an iPhone to a Nexus one 18 months back. The immediate uploading of photos is a pull. Not to mention that Google + is fantastically better looking than Facebook on my device. As someone said recently, Google is getting beter at design faster than Apple is getting better at the cloud.

    It’s this incremental pull deeper and deeper one month/service at a time.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      It’s almost time for me to try an Android phone again for a month. Probably February.

      • @FakeBradFeld

        Try the S3 and you will not be an Apple fanboy anymore. A Nexus device would be better, of course.

      • rosscarlson

        Let me know when I can get you the Nexus 4 – that’s the device you want to play with when you’re ready again.

        • http://www.feld.com bfeld

          I’m game to use it all of Feb

        • http://twitter.com/Quikchange Antonio D’souza

          How do you propose to obtain one? They’ve been sold out for weeks.

          • http://www.feld.com bfeld

            @Rosscarlson has mad procurement skills.

      • http://petegrif.tumblr.com/ Pete Griffiths

        Get a Note 2
        bigger is better
        it truly is the next big thing

        • http://www.feld.com bfeld

          My IT Ross is pushing a Nexus 3 on me.

          • tuppermd

            the key is that it’s “pure google” whatever the device, all the other noise from carriers and OEMs always detracts from the UX.

          • http://www.feld.com bfeld

            So true.

          • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

            Loving the Note II. A week after I got it I threw out my ipad, my ipad mini and my iphone. its like an all in one. The first “phablet”. Well, I didn’t really throw them all out. I gave them to homeless people. The ones who didn’t have an S3.

          • http://www.feld.com bfeld

            I’ll check out the Note II. I love the phrase phablet. And you are a good man to give you old devices to homeless people. I just tweet out “who wants it?”

        • http://kidmercury.posterous.com/ kidmercury

          another vote for Note II. outside of OS, size is the most important feature. huawei is coming out with a 6″ android phone next year. i’m waiting for the 7″ and for those tablets to basically become phones. it will be the most obnoxious device ever, especially if it has a stylus and slideout keyboard. i will love it.

          • http://borasky-research.net/about-data-journalism-developer-studio-pricing-survey/ M. Edward (Ed) Borasky

            So many form factors, so little market. ;-) Seriously, people, get a grip! It’s about capacity, battery life, weight and productive / consumptive *user experience*!

            My wallet voted for an 8 GB RAM Core i5 five pound laptop dual-booted with Windows and Linux and a pre-paid feature phone. Can I watch TV? Yes! Can I blog? Yes! Can I take pictures? Yes! Can I talk to people? Yes! Can I play media? Yes! Kindle? Nook? Yes!

          • http://petegrif.tumblr.com/ Pete Griffiths
      • http://www.linkedin.com/in/ablelawrence Able Lawrence

        Try the recently announced Sony Xperia Z. I would really love the native HDR video

      • http://www.SmallBusinessOnlineCoach.com Matthew Hunt

        ditto

  • dvasefi

    I also have the multiple profile issue with Google+. As a UI I do believe + is getting better and more useful it’s just I don’t want to have to be forced to use a Gmail account to use the calendars or other features. I think G will get a wider reach if they open every singe product for use by anyone with any credential rather than trying to push people to use all their products. If I have a good experience with one of their products I’ll naturally gravitate towards using more but it haas to be my choice.

    • http://twitter.com/BIGELLOW Bob Bigellow

      You don’t need to have a Gmail account to use these other Google services. You can simply have a Google Account, with which you can sign up using any email address. It has been this way for years.

      • http://www.terencechang.com/blog/ Terence Chang

        Bob: I believe Google AdSense and Voice does require to have Gmail account.

      • dvasefi

        I have a couple of different Google account, for biz and personal, none of which are connected to my business domains. So when someone that uses Gcal sends me an invite to my business domain email and I click on accept I’m taken to one of my G accounts. I’ve tried changing the primary email address to my business address but that option is not available – only a gmail account can be the primary. Do you know how to change this?

        • http://www.feld.com bfeld

          I’m not sure I understand the distinction between accounts you are making. Can you ask again, but use actual account names (brad@foundrygroup.com, brad.feld@gmail.com). You don’t have to use real addresses but calling them business, personal, gmail doesn’t help me help you fix the chain. BTW – this is the biggest weakness right now around identity. There are some fixes, but it’s still a core issue.

          • dvasefi

            Sure, I have dvasefi@gmail.com (personal) and eyeonjewels@gmail.com (which was setup when I signed up for Adwords) google accounts. For business I use dvasefi@eyeonjewels.com. I received a cal invite to my dvasefi@eyeonjewels.com account from Tim F. which is using Gcal. When I click to accept I’m automatically taken to one of my gmail accounts (none of which have dvasefi@eyeonjewels.com as primary) and get the message to login using a different account. I could ask Tim to send an invite to the eyeonjewels@gmail.com address but he already has my business email and this will add more complications I don’t want to go thru. Hope this is a little more clear. (i use Apple mail on my macbook air)

          • http://www.feld.com bfeld

            Yup – got it. Classic aliasing problem. That’s my “fix aliasing and you’ll get at least 50% of the problem solved” solution that I’ve sent to friends at Google.

          • dvasefi

            Amen to that – I just need to use their services with my own (preferred) email addresses – glad you have their ear…

  • http://www.clickbrain.com/ ClickBrain

    They may have a decent long game strategy, but from gmail through to every product they have the user interfaces are becoming more cluttered, difficult to understand and next to impossible to understand how they work together unless you are willing to fight through the maze to find the end game. For the average user this is a no go. Trying figuring out the difference between Picasa Web and + Pics or understand where or to whom you are publishing pics from Picasa the app. Inviting people to hangouts is a wait and see game that never works cleanly unless a user actually already uses hangout and understands how the invites work. Am I sending an invite to email or to Google + that most of the people I know never open or use. Gmail went from an elegant and simple to use interface to a cluttered mess of frames so difficult to navigate, that I no longer login unless I have to. I am thankful they bought Sparrow and hoping they add their interface guys to the team, because it is a total hot mess of inelegantly integrated functionality. I am a big fan of Google Apps and have used it and recommended it repeatedly, but right now the only thing that works easily is Google Drive which is basically a copy of Dropbox, but a little bit better priced. I hope Google gets it together, but right now I don’t see anyway through to non-geeks actually using anything together. I barely do and it’s only because I have to.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Interesting. I have a different observation – in the past year (2012) I’ve seen them take many of the far flung pieces with complex UX (e.g. “how to I start a Google Hangout”) to making the high use
      pieces seamlessly integrated. At the same time, I think they are gradually rolling out a totally new UI across a lot of things, including Mobile, that are very appealing to the mainstream.

      • http://www.clickbrain.com/ ClickBrain

        I hope so. I gave up trying to use hangout with my business partners, because it was such a mess, but maybe I should give them another shot. It’s not how to use Hangout once everyone is in that was confusing, but rather how to get people to it. I will say the gmail mobile apps are great and clearly show the influence of Sparrow(minus unified inbox that I need), but the desktop web interface is all over the map and seems to be getting worse. Right now I use Sparrow Desktop, Sparrow Mobile, and Sanebox together and love my email experience, because I am not logging into the web. I only use Voice as the number I give when I know a Salesman is going to call, so I can screen calls, so can’t speak to living in that world. I have been a big Google “Apps” advocate for a very long time, but have been disappointed for awhile now. I’ll give Hangout another shot with my next team call and see if it’s any better. If the connectivity is better than Skype’s inconsistency, I’ll be happy if I can get non-savvy users to figure out how to log in.

        • http://www.feld.com bfeld

          If y’all use Google Calendar, just click on “Add a Google+ Hangout” midway down the page to the right of “Video Call” (below Where). Simple.

          • http://www.clickbrain.com/ ClickBrain

            That’s probably why I haven’t noticed the new integrations. I’ve been using Fantastical on my Mac. I’ll give it a shot. Thanks!

            Wow, this discussion has really hit home with me, how much of my life I’ve shifted from browser to client since I got a Mac last summer. Very interesting seeing as when I worked with you, my life was all browser advocate all the time.

  • http://www.lacertabio.com Carlos N Velez/Lacerta Bio

    I’ve been really cranking up my G+ activity as well. In fact, I’m finding that G+ is much better for meeting interesting people. Facebook is still the dominant site for me to interact with my close friends and family, but only because they’re not on G+. If LinkedIn is 100% professional, and Facebook is 100% personal, G+ is somewhere in the middle, at least in my world.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Same with mine!

    • http://blog.ricardodiz.com/ Ricardo Diz

      I agree, though I can easily see G+ replacing my personal interactions from FB in the future…

  • drbillnye

    I can dig it

  • JamesWagar

    How do you currently keep your contacts straight between your four Google accounts?

    Or, do you even try?

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Everything is in my main one (foundrygroup.com). I also use FullContact – that’s my definitive contact record source that I sync out everywhere.

      • dvasefi

        Brad, it looks like you are hosting foundrygroup.com on Google, that probably makes things a lot simpler. FullContact also looks like a great option to look into, just signed up for an invite.

        • http://www.feld.com bfeld

          Yup – we host all the domains at Google now (except for the DNS).

  • http://twitter.com/AndySack Andy Sack

    Thanks for explaining that to me. It’s super useful context — and I’m a total google user too. Wish google drive worked better though

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I’ve found Google Drive to work fine. What issues are you having?

  • http://twitter.com/gadishamia Gadi Shamia

    I agree with the observation and the facts but I feel that Google stumbled upon this new strategy rather than thinking it through. Just when Google Plus launched I talked with one of its creators and I heard nothing other than Facebook. The way the product is designed indicate that it is intended to be part of a holistic Facebook replacement strategy and not an add on to other Google features. You, me and many others hack it to be what we want it to be, but I don’t think this was Google’s master plan all along.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      It may not have been the original master plan, but it seems to be the master plan now.

    • http://twitter.com/BIGELLOW Bob Bigellow

      That’s because it’s in their culture. Sell something as X, even when you know secretly that it’s Y. In most cases, the engineers themselves might even think they’re building X and only X, only to find out later that Y was the ultimate plan.

      For instance, 1-800-GOOG-411 was really just a training bed for voice recognition. ReCAPTCHA is just a training bed for book scanning. Chrome was likely just a training bed for helping their web crawlers understand the new web. And so on and so forth. Most of these concepts are long tail strategies disguised as short-term experiments.

  • Reason

    Great article, i’ll have to dust off my google+ account and give it another look

  • MG Sexton

    The most exciting product Google has done since Search is Google Now. But the contextual power of Now relies on an identity. If there isn’t a tie in between Google’s many products, how can Google provide me relevant contextual information? Google+ is the identity platform that is the necessary backbone of where Google wants to go. Even if you’re not really interested in socially networking on the Google+ site, I encourage people, especially those who heavily use Now like I do, to get on it. Because the social signals they send based on what restaurants, tourist sights, Youtube videos, and websites they visit will hopefully one day pop up in a contextual feed when I need it.

    That will be true frictionless sharing. When you get social signals from your friends in context without an explicit reference to them having ‘liked’ or +1ed what you’re being recommended.

  • http://www.derekscruggs.com/ DJ

    I’ve noticed this “stuff just shows up” phenomenon too. I think the missed the marked with Wave’s launch but still see the potential value, so they’re slowly integrating some of it’s cooler features. Organizing it around Gmail is key.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Yup – Wave was a debacle but some of the ideas in it were really good.

  • http://www.engag.io/Abdallah Abdallah Al-Hakim

    Two things to emphasize. First, the mobile experience on g+ is terrific even for iPhone. Second, the search function is good and once g+ searches start showing in the normal google search then it will be harder to ignore. I also love the ability to follow and post to different circles.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I’ve never really thought of G+ as a social network. Sure – that was the initial easy positioning against Facebook, but I think Google is going after something with a much broader wingspan that Facebook. The only other company that could do this is Microsoft and they’ve consistently gotten tangled up in the innovators dilemma around this. Theoretically Apple could try, but their efforts at this kind of stuff have been really really bad.

    • dvasefi

      The circles are probably the most compelling part of G+ for me since there is so little privacy in FB it’s never worked for me personally. I also like the way they are beginning to organize the different features on the left panel and allowing me to organize as I like. Will also begin trying out hangout to see how that works.

      • http://www.feld.com bfeld

        It’s amazing how many different ways FB has tried to do the equivalent of Circles and has NEVER gotten it right.

        • dvasefi

          I’m not even sure why they try to do that. The vast majority of people that use FB are ok with how it works now (people I know pretty much want FB to stay out of their way!) These audiences have a very specific purpose for using FB and it works for them and they will most likely not use it for other things such as private circles, business, etc. I think they will be better off just focusing on the consumer conversation and improving that – there is so much potential and $$ in there no one company can ever capitalize on it all.

          As for G+ as I begin using it more it seems they would be eating into my LinkedIn time more than FB.

          • Alan

            I agree linkedin probably has more to worry about than FB. I have friends who use Gmail that are considering other alternatives because all the G+ enhancements are confusing them.

            Once again it boils down to all the web professionals loving g+ but “normal” people not really caring about it.

            Google is betting the bank on G+ and yes they have the long game in mind but at the moment they are looking like they have failed again. G+ is their sixth attempt at social. Obviously by now they should realise they are just out and out BAD at it.

            They would be better off spending that G+ expenditure on buying pinterest or some other product that knows how to get people involved and using.

            You see figures like 400million G+ users but everyone knows only a minute percentage actually are “active users”. SEO’s and other web professionals will be forced to love G+ but the great unwashed do not and will not care about it. For one simple reason.

            it is a barren and soulless place. Life can live in a desert but it is much more difficult than in a tropical rainforest.

          • Citizen1985

            You’re not paying attention. I just picked the most recent post (Jan. 10) that was on both social networks (G+ had a newer one that FB didn’t ahve) from one of the most popular people in the world: Britney Spears. 16,000 people liked it, 1200 comments, 1400 shares on Facebook. Identical post on G+: 1100 liked it, 140 comments, 100 shares.

            This isn’t even the type of sharing that G+ is known for (G+ primarily used for focused conversations privy only to those actually part of the conversation, not broadcasting and idolatry).

            Regardless of Facebook’s reported numbers, or G+’s reported numbers, this obviously shows that G+ is not barren. This snapshot shows engagment measurable by me, some rando, of ~1/10th that of Facebook for this metric. Do it yourself, pick some other idolized celebrity that’s on both social networks and see how barren it is. You ca pooh-pooh all you want, but you’re wrong in your dismissal, wrong in thinking they “failed again”.

          • Alan

            I think it is you who is not paying attention. Hmm lets pick.. I don’t know the most powerful man on the planet. Lets compare his usage.

            G+ usage
            Jan 8th last post
            Jan 3
            Dec 19th 2012 ???
            Nov 7th 2012 ????

            Facebook Usage
            Multiple times daily EVERY day

            Twitter
            Even more than Facebook

            But this isn’t the point, the vast majority of those people you cited in you Britney Spears example, who liked, commented and shared using G+ are not using G+ to stay in touch and interact with their friends.

            They are going back to Facebook to do that!

            and that is why G+ is as Barren as the Sahara.

          • Citizen1985

            Saw that post you refer to. Identical post on Facebook, identical post on G+. FB:G+ ratio is 44:1 on “likes/+1″, 25:1 on “shares”, and comments can’t be measured because G+ is limited to 500 (kind of hard to have a discussion beyond “cool” and “totally” beyond that point (well, I don’t go past 100 myself, but whatever)). Regardless, engagement of the broadcasting (FB/Twitter kind) can exist on G+, but it excels at grouped or one-on-one conversation.

            This is where you’re still not paying attention if you think people aren’t “staying in touch and interacting with their friends” on G+; because you can’t see it, because you’re not their friend. That’s the point of G+ and its circles; it partitions your life as opposed to broadcasting as Twitter and FB easily fall into. A tiny fraction of G+ posts are public (I’ve got maybe one a month, but multiple partitioned conversations per week) – they’re broken up into communities, real life circles, business circles, tech, science, politics, on and on.

            Conclusion: you want broadcasting and idolatry: G+ can do it, but you’re forced into it on FB and Twitter. Think it’s barren? That’s because you’re not contemplating a world of communication that’s easily directed, NOT broadcast.

          • Alan

            So you are telling me you have managed to get all your friends to switch from FB to G+ just because that is what you prefer?

            That is the point. The people are on FB not on G+ and they will be for the foreseeable future.

            and that is why I said that I agree linkedin is more likely to be affected by G+ than FB will be be. Because professionals will “be forced” sorry encouraged to use it, but Citizen1985, I bet that even your friends are still using FB to engage each other. Engagement is what all Social Networks want to happen and as much you want it to, it’s not happening anywhere near as much on G+ as on FB. Once again because most of the people are on FB!

          • Citizen1985

            Get them to switch? No, some still broadcast on FB (out of 7 closest friends, two broadcast daily, one weekly, two monthly, and two either lurk or no longer use it). But they interact with me where I want to interact – (not to mention it’s as easy as replying to an email), taking advantage of the partitions as well.

            Not to mention, it’s a lot easier to share things with family and keep them away from other posts – and of course family will absorb photos of important events from any distribution location.

            It’s just not hard to pick up and go – download your photos, download the photos you’ve been tagged in, and finito.

          • Alan

            The argument we are having is not about whether G+ is a better system.

            I can agree with you that technically it is a better system. Just like Googles other attempts at Social networking where technically superior to FB at the time. Do you remember Wave, Orkut and the other 5 attempts by Google to do Social networking? They where all technically superior to FB at the time, but it didn’t matter.

            The argument is will people use it? and the answer to that is no.

            Not unless Google does something amazing.

            Because G+ will remain barren and lifeless except I guess for you citizen and your 7 friends who can happily interact on G+ until Google either does something amazing that makes the webs non professionals to switch sides. Or Google shuts down G+ like it did it’s other attempts.

          • Citizen1985

            Disagree – wasn’t really arguing how much better G+ is than FB (even though I agree that it is as well)- and no, don’t remember any other attempts at social networking.

            The answer is that people are already using it, not that they won’t use it. Google’s existence is “amazing” enough – it’s a powerful alternative to FB (& Twitter, & LinkedIn, & Pinterest). To think that there’s an unassailable monopoly somewhere in social networking … well, keep reading.

            I’m just trying to show that social interaction revolves around a person, not a site, trying to show that social interaction can live/grow anywhere, that G+ isn’t even barren from a broadcasting point-of-view, trying to show that the large majority of interactions are hidden below the surface (of the two out of 7 closest friends that have begun to use G+ consistently, none of their posts are visible to the public), and to reiterate that your friends will communicate with you in any way that you wish.

            Just for kicks, here’re November 2012 figures:

            “comScore data … in November Facebook attracted 150 million unique visitors in the U.S. alone while accounting for 10% of total minutes spent online. But it’s not just Facebook that comprises social: In the same month in the U.S., LinkedIn attracted 41 million monthly unique visitors, Twitter saw 40 million, Google+ attracted 29 million, while Pinterest and Instagram each received more than 25 million visitors.”

            Yeah. 29 million. Totally barren. Pinterest and Instagram must be scorched earth then, eh?

            Here’s a link to time spent on site – engagement (average visits per visitor per month * length per visit) is approximately 60:1, FB:G+. Pretty much what we’ve already noticed in the Obama & B. Spears examples previously in conversation.

            Still not anywhere near barren. Here’s what’s “trending” currently:

            https://plus.google.com/explore

  • http://www.terencechang.com/blog/ Terence Chang

    Well. G+ is now the last window I close before Gmail, Google Voice, and Google Calendar. Twitter is already my least favorite social network. What’s linkedIn?

    Facebook may be a great tool to build a relationship, but Google actually let me decide how I live my life. I can live without Facebook, but I can’t live without ME.

    I find G+ a much easier platform to find people I really want to hang out with. I even had chance to talk to real billionaire on G+. Where are they on Facebook?

  • David Metcalfe

    Typo: integrats

  • http://blog.momekh.com/ Momekh

    Google+ is not a social network then. Or social networks should focus on more tools that help individuals with their own workflow?
    I mean, FB tried to some thing with Skype that I rarely use. I do use Skype for calls and recording interviews (HD quality is quite nice actually). But bottom line: Google’s leverage is vastly different than FB’s (I mean who on earth uses FB’s email!? :P) … but tainting search engine results with G+ entries is a bad, bad mix.

    Btw, loved how you ended the article. Different game indeed.

    • http://twitter.com/Quikchange Antonio D’souza

      High school kids use FB instead of email ;-p

      • http://www.feld.com bfeld

        Actually, more and more of them are using G+ – at least the ones I know. And that means they are using email again.

  • Jan Kabili

    I totally agree with you Brad. It’s not G+ or FB. It’s G+ on an entirely different playing field. Here’s what I’ve found: As a Photoshop author/instructor G+ has expanded my audience by thousands. In just a year I have 31,000 followers, host a biweekly Photoshop/Lightroom hangout that is automatically evergreen on YouTube, and founded a community with over 13,000 members in just a couple weeks. The numbers are big, the interactions are satisfying, and you can get as meta as you need to between circles, communities and hangouts on G+ — not to mention all the ways you use it in your private business.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Great example.

  • MidianGTX

    That’s nice, you use things a lot of other people don’t use. That’ll be why Google+ works for you.

  • D L Thomas

    Cool to see Google+ integrated to find an organic path forward…daunting tough challenge It’s very interesting to see this play out. Thanks for pointing out the things that are working for you…I’ll probably engage G+ a bit more

  • http://engag.io/ William Mougayar

    It’s interesting that of all the G+ features you mentioned, the stream where you follow people’s updates itself isn’t one of them. The stream being what Google started marketing G+ as. 

    Yes, G+ is possibly becoming a productivity network more than a social network.  

    • timrpeterson

      “productivity network more than a social network” <- hadnt thought of that, that's a nice way or putting it

    • http://giffconstable.com giffc

      That last sentence is right on, at least once google solves their identity mess and gets their UX into decent shape, which it is still far from…

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I’ve never really spent a lot of time in my Google stream. I don’t spend a lot of time in my FB newsfeed either. Twitter is the only place I regularly check my stream / feed.

      • http://engag.io/ William Mougayar

        You’re not the only one. But I know other users that love their Google stream. Perhaps more B2B types if I were to guess. Choosing what stream to follow is a dilemma and a productivity suck. It’s like having multiple TV channels with lots of overlapped programming. I’m biased of course, but I stick to my Engagio Dashboard stream because it plucks out the Conversations thread from all my other networks, and these would be buried otherwise and tough to identify.

      • http://twitter.com/hertling William Hertling

        I have a hard time reading my twitter stream, as I don’t have any tools to surface the cream to the top. I dip in occasionally, see 50 irrelevant posts, then leave.

    • http://www.linkedin.com/in/ablelawrence Able Lawrence

      Nee… Interest Network more. It can become productivity network (great potential) but without every one in the team onboard, that is difficult.

  • Alan

    Interesting Article I have found exactly the opposite and have deleted my Google+ accounts. Not because I was worried about privacy or anything but because none of my friends are using it and that is precisely what all the professionals and SEO’s etc that push G+ seem to forget. NORMAL people don’t give a flying turd about G+

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Do you use Gmail? If you use Gmail, or Google Apps, I think you’d quickly find it indispensable. But if not – where you are using Microsoft Exchange and all the Microsoft stuff, or Yahoo Mail, then it’s likely not very useful.

    • tuppermd

      I think Brad is right on this one, a LOT of the people you say aren’t using G+ or “don’t give a flying turd about G+” ARE using Gmail, which means they will use it if you put them in a circle and share something with them, even if its only that once, the red square will drag them back in like Michael Corleone, whether they expect it or not.

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  • http://petegrif.tumblr.com/ Pete Griffiths

    Google is:
    a) the beneficiary of the most stupendously successful money pump since IBM dominated mainframes
    b) the scariest software company ever

    This is NOT a competitor you want.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      What (b)?

      • http://petegrif.tumblr.com/ Pete Griffiths

        It is an absolutely phenomenal engineering company with scary strength in depth.

  • http://twitter.com/techguy John Lynn

    One other interesting note about G+ is that I can be as “promiscuous” as I want to be in connecting with people (like I am on LinkedIn), but with circles I can create intimate areas (like I have on Facebook). It recognizes well that I have a lot of different interests and don’t usually want those to overlap. I wish more services would recognize that (like discus comments).

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Yup – that’s one of the genius things about Circles. It’s really well executed.

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  • http://www.philsimon.com/ Phil Simon

    No argument here, Brad. Google clearly understand the platform concept. It’s about iteration more than a big bang. Amazon did the same thing.

  • tuppermd

    This is all refreshing to hear. I remember when you where debating windows laptop vs macbook… and still using outlook. I assume this means you have also learned to appreciate “conversations” and aren’t pulling your strings at Google to request they make the inbox look like outlook. Last step is to get you off that iPhone and on to a Nexus 4 (its gotta be “pure google”, you don’t need any of that oem or carrier meddling, its never any good).

    So, I kind of like having my various inboxes all separate (currently at 6). I usually have a Chrome window with 6 tabs open to gmail, one for each inbox. I don’t know why, but I am paranoid about merging them all into one, even though it’d be easy enough to sort out (search “to:mtupper@…”). Nonetheless, its easy enough to get all you mail in one login/inbox by linking accts in the settings. You could even keep them separate by applying a filter and creating separate acct specific inbox labels.

    Re: Google Voice: Don’t you think this could be a hit outside the US? Especially if the number people called didn’t cost the caller $0.20 / min? Of course to do that, Google would need numbering all around the world… unless, of course, they had some sort of global numbering that they controlled the access charges to (Hmm, something like +688 maybe?)

    Best—
    Michael
    MacBook Pro + gApps + Nexus Galaxy S

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Conversations made email manageable for me. Without them if never be able to process the 500+ I get a day.

  • FAKE GRIMLOCK

    G+ GOOD FOR NEW WORLD WHERE ID OWNED BY GOOGLE.

    NOT SO GOOD FOR OLD WORLD WHERE ID OWNED BY YOU.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I accepted a long time ago that I down own my id. The machines would never let that be the case. And since they’ve already taken over, all my ids belong to them.

  • http://blog.kwiqly.com/ James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Other people requiring Skype is the only thing that holds me from moving lock stock and barrel into the G+Sphere for real time communication.

    http://code.google.com/p/karaka/ is worth looking at – I think once Skype loses its network effect stranglehold people will start to demand skype-SIP and Skype will comply or start to go the way of IE – which I assume stands for Microsoft Incompatible Engineering.

    Few people are so determinedly free as those who have resented then escaped the bounds of closed protocols and do not want to go back.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I love the IE reference. Microsoft has a moment on time (right now) when they could change their historical game using Skype. So far it doesn’t look like they are going to do it but we will see. But the clock is running out – quickly – on this one.

      • http://blog.kwiqly.com/ James Ferguson @kWIQly

        I do hope you are right Brad !

  • http://one.valeski.org Jud Valeski

    yup. penetration is even deeper for me. YTube apps on my iOS devices. google maps linked to my account. google proper iOS app linked to my google account. google translate app linked to my account. they’re pervasive.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Have you moved off you iTunes everywhere lockin yet?

      • http://one.valeski.org Jud Valeski

        Trying to for music (Rdio has clients everywhere). Can’t for movies.

        • http://www.feld.com bfeld

          I’m all in on Spotify for music at this point.

          • http://one.valeski.org Jud Valeski

            Did they figure out discovery? Last I used it I had to know the music u wanted to listen to.

          • http://www.feld.com bfeld

            Discovery is “ok” – I often just listen to a station based off an album and that’s pretty good.

  • Bob Frankston

    I saw this post just as G+ told me to setup notifications. If I understand correctly Google let’s me choose who I want to follow via circles. Tools to manage my attention without requiring all of it are vital to make G+ part of my life not my entire life. I don’t want to be owned . This is why I have a problem with aaS (as a Service) as a user (as an investor it’s another story).

    This still a work-in-progress. I want to be able to manage my past notifications also. I’m also planning to look more into GoogleScript which could be a vital part of the mix.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      GoogleScript is pretty huge. I just got the following note from a friend.
      You’ve described precisely how my communications world has transformed. But I’ve taken it one step further – automation through Google Apps scripting services. Such as scripts that …

      - aggregate client project data into reports, create hangouts, and notify participants.

      - respond to messages from people outside my circles to qualify them for potential future discussions.

      - search my Gmail archives and assemble a document of previous threads about a specific topic.

      A universe of operational efficiency exists when you realize that Google’s constellation of integrated services are built on a consistent and comprehensive collection of class libraries. And [even better] they provide a development platform and the web services necessary to leverage these programming assets.

      • http://borasky-research.net/about-data-journalism-developer-studio-pricing-survey/ M. Edward (Ed) Borasky

        Class libraries? Scripting? In what language? Microsoft Office has had scripting for decades; they just didn’t have it in a ‘public cloud’ and their servers (Exchange and SharePoint) are complex to manage. OpenOffice / LibreOffice have had scripting in Python and Java for years too.

        Google used their humongous user base and cash pool to give away for free an email service that was almost as good as Outlook and an office suite that was almost as good as OpenOffice and that had collaboration. And Google’s devops army does all the heavy server lifting for you for free.

        Even with its limitations, Google Apps for Business is a great bargain for $50 a year, but I doubt very seriously if it’s a *profit* center for Google. And Google Doc spreadsheets still lag *way* behind Excel in functionality and in raw size capability.

        I’m not a Microsoft fanboy – the first thing I do when I buy a new Windows laptop is install R on it to do math, LyX for document processing and PostgreSQL for databases. And the second thing I do is dual-boot it with Linux. ;-) But Microsoft has had “a consistent and comprehensive collection of class libraries” and “a development platform and the web services necessary to leverage these programming assets” for many years – since Win32 / NT 4 and Windows 95 and Office 95, essentially.

        • http://www.feld.com bfeld

          It’s all about scripting “in the cloud.” Zero client activity.

          • http://borasky-research.net/about-data-journalism-developer-studio-pricing-survey/ M. Edward (Ed) Borasky

            Hmmm … back in the dark ages, we called that “batch processing”. Google has re-invented JCL? ;-)

          • http://www.feld.com bfeld

            Yup. And the cloud was just the mainframe.

          • http://borasky-research.net/about-data-journalism-developer-studio-pricing-survey/ M. Edward (Ed) Borasky

            Thin client? Of course, you realize that mean fat servers and fat pipes. ;-) #nofreelunch

          • http://www.feld.com bfeld

            There never is a free lunch.

  • James Mitchell

    A large part of Microsoft’s success is its patience. Their versions 1 and 2 usually suck but watch out for version 3.

    A company that was not patient was Lotus. They had so many great products that were 10 years ahead of their time: e.g., Improv, Manuscript, Magellan. They were very patient with Notes, however.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      The Microsoft v1 – v2 sucks and then they get it right with v3 is a nice old cliche that has run it’s course.

      I think Lotus was extremely patient. IBM (after they acquired Lotus – not so much). I don’t think Improv or Magellan fit it that category (ahead of their time), but Manuscript and Agenda certainly do.

  • Wei Li

    Google is really everywhere now

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  • Felipe Herrera H.

    Same thinking here. Specially that “it drives me batshit that Google still things I’m brad@feld.com, brad@foundrygroup.com, brad@startuprev.com, and brad.feld@gmail.com

  • http://twitter.com/ZoomTilt ZoomTilt

    Surprised there isn’t more weighted mention of these two aspects to G+’s long game: (1) YouTube and (2) SEO. On point one, progressively tighter and tighter Google+ YouTube integration in terms of UX, identity management and connectivity is making G+ a more relevant extension of YouTube. Internet video is over 50% of global web traffic (with varying-but-circa 40% market share for YouTube within that), so long-term developing and refining that link is really big. On point two, Google is search, we increasingly know social media relevance informs SEO ranking and, surprise surprise, what social network is most heavily weighted in Google’s algorithms? G+. The more traffic and engagement G+ builds the better an indexing agent for content it becomes.

  • http://brianvickery.com/ Brian Vickery

    I use Google+ to share some content, and I recently joined a few communities. However, the big differentiator (besides incredible integration that you describe with Mail…Voice…and Reader…and Docs/etc) is the Hangout feature.

    In fact, I prefer to use Hangouts vs GoToMeeting for product demonstrations. I can then get a “face-to-face” prior to demo’ing the product. We also use the Hangouts On Air feature for our weekly Hecklers’ Hangout online show that is truly multi-channel (G+, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook). Those Hecklers’ hangouts are used to promote authors and new tech…or to discuss social issues.

  • http://twitter.com/Write_A_NewSong Philip Quintas

    I noticed that Youtube has a few types of addresses it allows you to put as buttons (hot links) in the videos you post there. One of them is a Google+ page, that’s significant, it makes it wickedly easy to direct people to your page, for what it’s worth.

  • SH105

    I’m a huge fan of Google/Gmail too, but there is a serious problem with the formatting of emails in the Gmail/Google Apps environment that has been ongoing for years now, and which Google seems unable to address. The problem is worse given that most business users wouldn’t even now it existed, but would be very worried about if they were aware of it. In a nutshell – your emails sent using Gmail/Google Apps are likely appearing in the recipient’s inbox with completely messed up formatting (different font styles and font sizes etc within the same message) but this inconsistent formatting is not obvious to you at the time of drafting the email. The unprofessional looking emails are obviously a problem in a business context. Details and user (horror) stories are at this link: http://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/gmail/d6Hx_d-EAw4276-300-false. Anyone know anyone who can help gain traction on getting this issue resolved?

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I’ve solved this for many years by doing Shift-Cmd-V on my Mac when cutting and pasting from ANYTHING to ANYTHING else unless I was 100% sure that the HMTL formatting from the system I was cutting from was styled correctly. Ironically, many of the Microsoft apps (Word and Outlook are the worst offenders) have introduced an amazing amount of HTML cruft. I’ve never really figured out how to solve it cleanly.

      I agree that Google – and everyone else – could do a lot better job with this. I don’t think this is a Gmail specific issue.

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  • https://www.facebook.com/DakinAssociates Shaun Dakin

    Agree.

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  • Door Inward

    The reason why washroom doors open inward is because you’d rather have clean hands inside than after you leave. You and most of the commenters were looking at the problem based on the opposite assumption.

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  • http://www.twitter.com/aainslie Alexander Ainslie (@AAinslie)

    Brad, another inning in $GOOG’s #LongGame Coupons:

    http://techcrunch.com/2013/01/11/google-launches-zavers-by-google-digital-coupon-solution-for-retailers-and-manufacturers/

    w/ real-time redemption proof data to manufacturers as a value add.

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