Google+ Comments: A Social Comments Game Changer

Published on Author Eli Fennell
If you don’t know about it already, last week Google+ launched their Google+ Commenting system for Blogger (see example below).
The system has been highly anticipated, but no one outside of the project could have guessed the direction they’ve taken with it.  Because Google+ Comments aren’t your ordinary commenting system.  In fact, they aren’t a commenting system at all.
Google+ Comments are, in fact, an embedded Google+ posting system tied to the url of your blog (or website, since some inventive people have figured out how to port it to any website).  If someone shares a website or blog to Google+, that url is tied to their post, and Google+ will pull that and any comments on it into the site’s “comments”.  If the post was Public anyone can see it on that page; if privately shared to Circles then only those it was shared to can see it.
The on-site comments are also Google+ posts.  Even if the user chooses not to share it to their Google+ Stream, it still creates a hidden (and Locked) post, either Public or Private depending on the user’s sharing settings.  Simply click through the link on the timestamp, and you’ll see that the “comment” is actually just a Google+ post, which anyone with the url (and privacy permissions) can see, and all Notifications on that post get sent through the existing Google+ Notification system.
Instead of building a special third-party Commenting system, they’ve taken the path of least resistance and embedded their existing posting system, with a few slight tweaks, into other pages.  Commenting system?  Yes, sort of, but actually you’re posting to Google+ one way or another, whether you share it in your Circles or it’s visible only on-site or to those with the url or who receive Notifications about it.
This also allows Google to pull in previous posts by shared url and show them to people who visit a page, based on the privacy settings of the users.   Unless your url has changed since then, every Google+ post sharing your url to the beginning of Google+ should be automatically “pulled in” to the commenting system.  All comments on those posts can also be pulled in.
Google+ Comments are a web-wide social commenting system that reduces the friction between a site or blog and the social network it’s being shared to and discussed on… as long as that social network happens to be Google+.  It’s hard to see how Twitter or Facebook could build anything quite like it (Twitter has some limited ability to “pull in” Tweets to third-party sites but nothing comparable).
Since Google+ began, users have been sharing links and commenting on them.  Silently in the background Google has been building a huge database of shared links, and thanks to Google+’s Circle Sharing system which makes sharing visually intuitive (if not foolproof), with the option to post Public since Day 1, Google can now pull this information together and bring it under one roof.  This is a dimension of social analytics that has been left largely unexplored until now: the analytics of engagement across the entire social sharing system.  The social network and its associated commenting system have typically remained walled-off from each other like separate worlds.
This is why Google+ Comments are a game changer.  It may not be the #1 Social Network, but the ability to track social shares and comments across the web and view them all in one place, along with the more traditional on-site comments (which is as easy as not sharing to Google+), will be too much of an opportunity to resist for many sites and blogs.  It may even lead them to promote Google+ more passionately.  As an added benefit, the site owners/moderators can easily switch between a public view, and comments from users in their Circles, and so can their users.
I don’t expect Google+ Comments to kill the competition, at least not overnight.  Many sites depend too much on existing systems like Facebook, Twitter, or Disqus.  For those, like myself, who get most of their traffic and social engagement from Google+ the choice is obvious.  For others it may come down to a choice between a new and uncertain system and an established one that works.  Others may split the difference and have multiple commenting systems on their sites.
But Google+ Comments will be too powerful to ignore, especially with Google set to overtake Facebook as the #1 identity provider for social comments on the web.  There is literally nothing out there quite like it, or nothing worth mentioning at least.  Rather than complicate their product with yet another additional feature, as Google has long been known for doing, they have simplified, avoiding any major changes to the product.  Google is expected to unveil a unified messaging system called Babel for Gmail, G Talk, Google+ Messenger, and Google Voice at I/O.  But Google+ Comments are potentially far more interesting: a unified system for social sharing and commenting across the web.
This may be the biggest innovation to come from the Google+ Team since Hangouts, and it will be interesting to see what happens when Google officially expands the feature beyond Blogger.