Google is reportedly working on a third-party comment platform. Sites that use comment platforms allow their users to discuss articles and blog posts by signing into third party's network. Facebook is currently a leader in the scene, and a move from Google would open up another competitive front for the two.
Google, according to reports, will make the platform available to third parties in much the same way Facebook offers its platform, wherein visitors to a given website log into Facebook in order to post comments to the site's articles and content.
There's been speculation that Google might let visitors to websites log into its comment platform through other services, such as Twitter or WordPress.
The bottom line, however, is that this planned service is aimed directly at taking on Facebook.
"However Google configures this, it's clear that it's all about competing with Facebook and keeping users logged into Google's services," John Simpson, consumer advocate at Consumer Watchdog, told TechNewsWorld. "Google is terrified of Facebook's gains and is doing everything possible to fight them."
Who Wants Another Comments Platform?
Currently, Facebook is the big dog in the third-party comments platform business.
However, other players such as Disqus and Livefyre aren't doing too badly either at present. For example, Livefyre users include AOL, Fox, MTV and The New York Times. The company also partners with WordPress. Users of Disqus include CNN, Time, Fox News and Engadget.
"We don't know a lot about Google's comment system so far, but it feels intuitive that they're extending Google+ onto websites in similar fashion to Facebook," Daniel Ha, CEO of Disqus, told TechNewsWorld. "From our experience … publishers absolutely love the value of social networks integrated into their communities."
Although Google's product will garner attention, "I feel good about how we're positioned against tools that are social network extensions," Ha stated. "[They're] competitive in some narrow, logistical ways, but not in [areas] where we see ourselves growing."
Google's Privacy Nightmare
One area in which Google might have problems with its comment platform is the area of privacy, which has already proven to be one of the company's major bugbears.
Back in January, Google consolidated its privacy policies with the intention of sharing customer data across all its services. This sparked anger among privacy watchdogs both in the United States and the European Union.
"Right now if you sign on to a Google product or service, you're included in Google+," Justin Brookman, director of the consumer privacy project at the Center for Democracy and Technology, told TechNewsWorld. "It seems that anything you post on the comment page will be visible to all users of either Google+ or Google products, I believe." He indicated that this is still speculation, as Google hasn't released a comment platform so far.
Whether Google will stub its toe on the question of privacy when and if it releases a comments platform will depend on the ground rules it sets, Brookman suggested.
"Google promoted its social network on the grounds that it protected privacy better than Facebook, and it could try to do the same for its comments product," Brookman stated.
Public Speech Means Public Exposure
Perhaps the real threat would be Google's current policy of collecting, correlating and using consumer data across all its services.
"When you comment using a third-party comment platform, you expect the comment to be public," Consumer Watchdog's Simpson pointed out. "The threat to your privacy comes because you will log into Google services and are more likely to stay logged into Google. It's also true, I think, that your comments would be searchable and, perhaps, more accessible than they would otherwise have been."
It's possible that Google could set up its comments platform so that comments would only be exposed to others in the commenter's Google+ Circle, but "that's not the usual expectation of posting a comment," Simpson said.
On the other hand, a Disqus study has found that the most important contributors online are those using pseudonyms. In general, Google prefers users to use their real names in their profiles.
Google did not respond to our request for comment for this story.