Why Google won’t open up the G+ API: Because it knows we’ll leave

google+ read write apiGoogle+ updates are getting buried by the onslaught of major hardware announcements and the Chrome-to-iOS chaos that’s thus far stolen all the Google I/O spotlight. But Google has clued us into a handful of updates, as well as future plans for the social network.

Those plans, however, will not include an open API. Yesterday, the Google+ team shared some of the approach to managing the infant platform, and also announced they didn’t want to fuss with “something very special” by opening up a full read-write API for developers. “We want to create something that elevates engagement,” G+ VP Bradley Horowitz said.

And what better way to elevate engagement by making sure that automated posting apps can’t access the Google+ API? Google+ has notoriously had problems with activity on the site; it’s become a victim of cross-posted content. Open up that API and we all know exactly what will happen: every blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare post from here to oblivion will be computer-fed into the Google+ stream, and it will become the place that original content goes to die.

There’s a trade-off here, obviously. Were Google to give in and allow this, then there’d be far more engagement going on – sure, it’s not actually happening on the site, but it’s there and that means there’s more content for the users that are still logging in to G+ to look at and potentially interact with. There’s the argument that doing this could drive engagement. The risk isn’t worth it though: becoming an echo chamber to promote posts originating from other sites is a large one to take, considering the incredibly harsh scrutiny Google+ has been under.

It sounds a little desperate, especially when other social sites have offered up much fuller APIs, but the intentions of the Google+ team are good. For better or worse, they’d rather keep trying to build this community more naturally than just becoming an auto-post hell. “Naturally,” of course, includes some tactics that loop Google users into unwittingly joining and using Google+ — and you could argue this is automation in its own right, because Google is looping in people automatically without their own original interest to be a part of the site. Sort of like how automated posts would loop in content that wasn’t original interested in being posting to the site…

That’s a stretch, I know, but worth considering. Now Google+ will just have to convince everyone that Google+ is a compelling product on its own merits. 

At the moment, I know how I use Google+: I +1 stories I want to promote or find interesting and send them to the site and I occasionally pop in to see what’s happening. But that’s about it. Were automated posting available, I would absolutely use it and likely never check in again. So, yeah, Google, you’re right to keep that tool away from me. But that’s eventually going to be annoying unless you can turn the site into a place I want to visit and post original content in.  

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