Does Google+ Put Google On the Plus Side?

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In case you’ve been under a rock, Google just launched their own “Facebook killer”, Google+ which has created an explosion of posts around the blogosphere. However, the question on every blogger’s mind is whether this will this be their next fail like Wave and Buzz. Evaluations have poured in from all ends of the spectrum, some expressing their opinions of Google+ as a slap to Facebook, while others remain critical and believe it will ultimately fail.


They are taking a direct hit approach to Facebook by addressing many of the issues that people complain about most and presenting Google+ as the solution to their needs. Their announcement addresses Facebook’s privacy issues, reinforces the size of their user base, and suggests that their alternative will be more trusted, saying:

You and over a billion others trust Google, and we don’t take this lightly…  That’s why we’re giving you more ways to stay private or go public; more meaningful choices around your friends and your data; and more ways to let us know how we’re doing.

In an interview with TechCrunch, they say “We believe online sharing is broken. And even awkward”. Larry Page, the new CEO, has made social media top priority by staking employee bonuses on it’s success.

How Google+ Is Different

The Unique Selling Proposition it is offering is improved sharing. As compared to the tiny Altly, they have less concern about the problems of the network effect since they already have a stronghold on users who can simply tie in their current YouTube, Gmail, Picasa or other other linked accounts. As an extension of the current products, Google+ will benefit from the ease of transition and gain a larger acceptance, creating a larger network with which to compete.

There is also a focus on presenting a superior experience with regards to privacy. Google+ aims to be the opposite of Facebook and Twitter’s global broadcast and will offer a more refined version of sharing. The Circles feature separates your content by the groups you create. Whereas with Facebook and Twitter all connections and content are equal, here your content will be targeted and then filtered to the appropriate audience. That way you can post about your Saturday night activities without your boss seeing all the details. However, starting a new account, creating all of the groups and separating all your contacts takes time, time that the average Facebook user is not willing to invest.

Google+ introduces something called “Circles”, “Sparks”, and “Hangouts”. Your Circles are basically a group of your contacts, and has been widely praised for the pleasant interface. Sorting your contacts into groups will eventually be the unique way you interact versus Facebook and the secret weapon of social strategy. You can also send a message to several circles simultaneously, to an individual (or several individuals), or just make it generally public. A contact can be part of more than one circle; if you send a message to both circles, that person will only get the message once.

The Sparks section is a collection of web elements on an interest area. After you enter an interest, Sparks will find things on the web for you to browse such as links, videos and blog posts. This seems to be the section with the most potential. As an avid fan of Google Reader, its main weakness has been the social aspects. So I expect that this section will eventually integrate with Reader based on user requests and experience and become a strong method of sharing your web content.

Hangouts seems to be the section that most people are discussing that interests me the least. Hangouts is where you are able to do video group chatting, a feature that Facebook does not offer. While this seems neat, I do not expect to use this feature nearly as often as some of the others. The interesting parts of this technology include the ability to share a piece of content (like a video) with everyone in the Hangout and everyone will watch it simultaneously.

Is Google+ Different Enough?

The layout of Google+ bears a striking resemblance to Facebook, with three columns, the middle of which is the stream of content and the right column has suggestions of contacts. However once you move past the front page the interface is quite unique. While Wave was fascinating, none of us could never wrap our heads around how to make it work, Google+ has clear benefits and obvious functionality.

Whether it will last is the question, and it is simply too early to tell. Everyone seems to be kicking the tires right now, even Mark Zuckerberg has an account and will be curious to see the results. It seems to be a much better effort into social media by Google than its past failures, but has obvious hurdles to overcome. Google+ will need to continue to provide simple and obvious reasons to add yet another tool to our arsenal, another website to check, and another stream to manage.

(photo: http://xkcd.com/918/)

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  • So far, and it’s still very early, to me Google+ is much less a “facebook killer” and much more a new tool for sharing with different intent. I don’t know how well I will articulate this, but here’s an example.

    I have a circle on Google+ called “Lawyerist.” I was having a back and forth with other lawyerists about the LAB and my next post. Google+ facilitated the correspondence very nicely. This is something I simply wouldn’t do in facebook.

    Sure, I know I “could” have performed the same function in fb however, it’s more about how I use fb and the purposes for which I use fb vs. G+.

    Before using G+, I didn’t comprehend the significance of “circles.” For me, it has had a dramatic impact on how/what I share.

    Then there’s hangout, which is truly the most significantly new feature. It makes me wonder what gotomeeting is thinking right now.

    My guess is that G+ is here to stay. While I’m doubtful that it will be a full fb replacement, I do think it has a lot of value as a new online sharing tool that I use for a separate set of purposes (generally, more productivity).

    If I had to pick anything that might be “killed” by G+ it would be much more likely to be twitter or online collaboration/productivity tools.

    I also anticipate that G+ will eventually be even more integrated with traditional search. This is Google’s way of “catching-up” on the social web and I think it will do its job.

  • Good points, Gyi. I think it will be fascinating to watch. I’ve had some serious Facebook burnout, so I can’t decide if I’m ready for Google+ or not but I agree it has some really interesting and unique features.

  • I love Google+ so far. Circles are a much more sensible way to manage sharing and privacy than Facebook’s impenetrable groups and privacy settings. And I love that it basically gets rid of the whole “friending” business.

    I’m in, and I hope it takes off.

  • ed @ credit repair

    I certainly will not be joining Google+. Just another HUGE waste of time and it’s just going to give Google even MORE power. Ridiculous. They are already the Godfather of the internet and now they just want to be God. No thanks.

  • This seems to be the hot topic in the blogosphere for the past couple weeks. Can’t go anywhere without hearing about Google Plus! But it is pertinent, so I suppose it’s important to discuss…

    As of now, my opinion is that Google Plus only has business owners and SEO’s logged into it right now, trying to take advantage of the affects it may (or may not) have on search engine results. Most average people (such as clients that lawyers like we are trying to attract) are still going to see Facebook and Twitter as the be-all-end-all of social networking. In fact, most people I know still refuse to use Twitter, because they see it as an unnecessary and dumbed-down version of Facebook. Regardless, though, it would be a mistake for any business owner, such as a lawyer, to not utilize it in the meantime.

    It’s affects on search engine results? THAT’S another story entirely . . . .