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.