In terms of Google’s social network, we’ve had rumour, we’ve had various names, we’ve had platforms that have been and gone and now we’ve got Google+; the new social network from the search engine giant.
Google have been desperate to compete with Facebook as the web looks increasingly towards social media and social platforms. With Facebook boasting 600 million users, does Google + even stand a chance of competing? Let’s take a look…
To compete with Facebook, Google have looked at what was lacking in the current services of the undisputed champion of social networks. We all have a few bugbears with Facebook, but are they enough for Google to swoop in and start taking Facebook’s users?
Many of their apparent limitations look to have been taken advantage of by Google as Google+ displays some excellent, innovative and exciting new features. Google’s official blog has more information on the features of their new social network, but if you don’t know already, these include the following:
Circles – Where friends can be placed into groups, thus allowing for different forms of content to be shared amongst different circles of friends [See: Google Circles: Circulating Rumours?]
Hangouts – Want to have a big video group chat? With Hangouts, you can have a multi user video service where friends and family can simply pop in to hangout for a while.
Huddle – Get instant messaging with more than just one person. This will help when trying to organise something with a group of people, e.g. a movie or a meal etc.
Sparks – If you tell sparks what you’re interested in, it will keep you updated with all kinds of cool content. Google call it an online sharing engine because you save, share and can discuss content.
As well as this, you have your traditional social media features such as photo sharing, messaging and comments. Google will also integrate their maps and images into the service.
Google + is only available to a select number of invited Internet folk and is still in Beta, so we’re still reliant on the comments of others, which are surprisingly positive. Search Engine Land provide an excellent overview of all the new features, and they believe that Hangout could be the clincher.
The service that allows multiple user video calls, where friends and family can pop in and out of conversations is something that is severely lacking on Facebook, despite it making so much sense for them to implement. Is this where Google+ will be won or lost? Hard to say. Mobile may also give Google+ the upper hand, especially with the creation of Huddles, which can severely save time and effort texting to multiple friends.
Those who have been lucky enough to gain access have been kind enough to share their thoughts; one such post is from MG Siegler on TechCruch. Siegler explains it’s what Buzz should have been like when it was released. The design, the interaction and the usability is excellent, and there is particular emphasis on the notifications feature which can be accessed via toolbar. Seigler explains that the notifications tool bar keeps you engaged with Google+ even when you’re not on Google properties. Sounds like a great way to keep you hooked.
Is all of this negligible though? The truth of the matter is that no matter how good Google+ is, with all of these brand spanking new features, are users really going to leave Facebook (where their own group of friends exist) and set up a Google+ profile? If people thought creating plus was hard for Google, they’re wrong; the hard part is getting users to switch.
This is simply the latest of a number of attempts by Google to tap into the social networking market and end Facebook’s domination; unfortunately previous efforts such as Google Wave and Google Buzz barely managed to get off the ground. We announced last year that Google were hell-bent on pushing better social features, despite their failings in the past [See: Google Wind Up Wave as Social Push Beckons.] Whether or not the same fate is in store for Google +, we shall just have to wait and see.
When the news was announced yesterday @Koozai_Mike collected some opinions on the web of the new service [What does the web think of Google+ ?] I think it’s fair to say the reaction has been mixed with many pessimists referring to Google’s last attempts; however there is excitement and a sense that if Google can make this work, especially if they show users why they should use Google+ instead of Facebook.
However it always boils down to the fact that people will only join if their friends have joined – remember how this worked for Facebook? It was new, innovative and suddenly snowballed around the world. So for Google+ it’s not simply a case of convincing users that new social networking services like circles, hangouts, huddle and sparks are better than Facebook’s services. Regardless of whether they are or not, people will always use what their friends use, and their fiends use, and the friends of their friends (you get the picture).
Google have basically looked at Facebook’s limitations and developed some new, and in all honesty pretty cool features, but whether or not this will create the snowball effect that Facebook did back in 2006 is another thing.