Google has updated the look and feel of fledgling social network arm Google + and those changes seem to indicate where social networks are heading in the (very) near future.
The screen area has been cleaned up, leading to at least a few #whitespace jokes on Twitter. Users will now be able to assign apps to a ribbon on the left of their Google + profiles in the order that they choose, showing or hiding apps at their discretion.
The changes to Google + are ostensibly to make the platform “easier to use and nicer to look at, but most importantly…to create a simpler, more beautiful Google” but, as Wired‘s Mike Isaac points out, Google has probably made these changes with apps in mind, something that he terms “the widgetization of social.”
His analysis is borne out by recent moves by Facebook to more fully integrate third-party apps into their service as well music service Spotify’s relatively recent switch to being a platform for third-party app developers. Google may, with their recent redesign and its inferred purpose, be preempting the next big app-related push to roll out of Zuckerberg’s social giant. Similarities between Facebook in its present state and the new Google + have been noted, with the exception that Google +’s user interface is now easier to use.
Google senior vice president Vic Gundotra certainly seems to be hinting at a more app-oriented direction for the company’s social network service.
“We’ve also built the ribbon with the future in mind, giving us an obvious (and clutter-free) space for The Next Big Feature, and The Feature After That. So stay tuned.”