One of Google's latest patent applications reveal how they want to encourage more of the hesitate public to give their social networking service "Google+" a try. Google's latest invention relates to generating a ghost profile in Google+ for new users. The new profile is set up to make joining Google+ quick and easy. More importantly it's designed to not push for too much personal information to make new users feel at ease with their social networking service process. Google is attempting to remove some the negative objectives associated with joining a social networking service which appears to be a clear swipe at Facebook.
The Problem: How to Win Over Anti-Socials
Social networks have become a popular tool for communicating with other people. Americans, for example, spend a quarter of their time online on social networks including blogs. Some people are concerned about creating profiles in social networks, however, because they are concerned that their privacy might be compromised. In addition, users do not want to take the time to fill out all their information and click multiple links to access information on a social network.
Thus a problem arises when users of social networks are friends with people that are opposed to social networks. The second group misses out on an important social component. For example, many users only share their photos on a social networking site. As a result, users that do not want to join the social network are forced to either join with reservations or miss out on the social component, such as viewing pictures.
Google's Ghost Profiling Solution
According to Google, their latest invention overcomes the deficiencies and limitations of the prior art at least in part by providing a system and method for establishing a ghost profile in a social network.
In one embodiment, as shown in Patent FIG. 2B below, the ghost profile application includes a social network application, a ghost profile engine, an invitation engine, a graphical user interface module and a search engine. The social network application generates and manages social network profiles. The ghost profile engine generates and manages ghost profiles.
The Ghost Profile Engine
In one embodiment, the ghost profile engine adds a profile type field to the ghost profile. This makes it easier for the search engine to filter out the ghost profiles. In one instance, the ghost profile engine generates the ghost profile in response to receiving a request from a member. The ghost profile engine then adds the member as a friend of the ghost profile user. The ghost profile is visible to the friend, but not to other users.
To make this clear, Google states that the ghost profiles are not visible to other users and cannot be searched. This way the ghost profile user will be able to experience the advantages of the social network without the pressure of joining and, after using some of the functions of the ghost profile, will be encouraged to join.
In response to a user request, the ghost profile engine converts the ghost profile to a social network profile for full access to all the social network functions.
The Invitation Engine
Google's invitation engine generates and transmits an invitation to a user that contains a link to the ghost profile. In one embodiment, once the ghost profile engine receives a confirmation that the user selected the link – the ghost profile engine assigns a unique identifier to the ghost profile. This is advantageous over assigning the unique identifier at the same time that the ghost profile is created because some users will not click on the link, which reduces the pool of unique identifiers.
The Ghost Application's GUI Module
Google's graphical user interface module generates a user interface for displaying the ghost profile. The search engine searches for profiles and filters out ghost profiles. In one instance, the search engine scores ghost profiles as zero and filters the zero-scored profiles from the final results list.
In another instance, the graphical user interface module only displays a partial name for the ghost profile user so that only the user's friends will recognize the user's activities. In another scenario, Google states that the ghost profile user's email address is the username and, as a result, the email address is obfuscate.
Google's patent FIG. 12 shown below is an illustration of an email invitation sent from a member of a social network to a non-member.
Google's patent application was originally filed only six months ago (Q3 2011).
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