Google has now re-entered the social web coliseum under the guise Google+ Project. With Orkut and Google Wave on the wayside, Google is hoping the third time’s the charm. At the moment, the project is already in production and several invitations have went out to hundreds and possibly thousands of participants with Google accounts for beta viewing. Looking at the features on paper, Google+ looks to match Facebook, feature-to-feature with some additional twists but based on pure feature sets alone, some parts of the Google+ project has left me feeling like they have not done their homework in terms of what Facebook has captured – social interaction. I’m hoping to get a chance to get into the mix with a beta invitation but the videos and impressions I’m getting as well as the initial feedback of current invitees are still telling me Google is still not getting it.
It’s obvious that Google’s attack plan is to go feature-to-feature with Facebook in hopes of trying to make an imprint in the social web. When I talked to one of the LTG staff members, he was excited about the prospect of these features. “But that’s probably just me” confirmed his intentions and admitted mostly that he likes Google and not because it offers anything different from what Facebook already features. He is, in essence, Google’s ideal customer – the person who loves to have everything integrated into his Google account.
But this is not what Google is after. Facebook is a major threat to Google. Last year, comScore reported that people spend more time on Facebook than on any other site. Not long ago, LTG reported that Google has broken 1 billion visits per month which breaks down a combination of Google services (Youtube, Gmail, Picasa, etc.). But Facebook has 800+ million members and growing and many sites are leveraging those numbers with good reason. Any person that starts a business or blog on the web finds it easier to understand that having an integrated Facebook login means the potential for sharing something.
On their blog, Google+ Project is headlined as Real-life sharing and rethought for the web, yet all their features scream social with words like “circles”, “hangouts”, and “sparks”. Circles was designed to address Facebook’s “messy” and “scary” Wall. But the Facebook Wall is designed entirely for public use by echoing quick advice and emergencies on a whim without having to think about circles. You want to share pics, vids and links with circles? Send a Facebook message to one or more circle (aka Facebook groups).
In addition to having groups, Facebook provides an option over how your groups are seen.
And when most Facebook members have the FB app on a variety of mobile devices, sharing becomes much easier.
Sparks and Hangouts
Sparks+ is basically a pre-filtered News Feed based on interests by guessing what it thinks you like while Hangouts is multiple video chat with current users online. Facebook has been doing the same thing with TinyChat – a free popular chat system that was once neutral from various platforms – is now tightly integrated into the Facebook platform . This is the power behind Facebook’s social platform. If the feature does not exist, someone is bound to address the void.
Huddle is essentially mobile group chat to which FB Messaging also has and with Facebook nearly finished with their New Messages update they will address current issues with group chat and messaging while providing the ability for FB members to leave large conversations, or loop new people into the conversation including its history as well as sending links, photos and videos.
Instant Upload is one feature that Facebook app does not have and its a great idea – background uploading to private albums for immediate sharing. Yet, I can’t imagine Facebook not addressing this lack of feature in their mobile app in the near future. So where does this leave Google? It now becomes a question of why share here instead of there?” and that’s not something I’m sure Google can win coming to the game so late. The emphasis with Google+ is on using these Circles as a sort of natural filter and a new interface with the hope that you’ll share within Google+ the same way you do in the real world. You’ll send certain things to your close friends, other things to your co-workers, other things to your college buddies, etc. all with Circles.
I think Google knows all of this. I don’t believe they’re setting out this time with the intention of trying to win that game. Or are they? They did that with Buzz, and they lost.
Google+ success will be contingent upon everyone convincing their friends and family to regularly use it – assuming they have a Google account. Even with the scale of Google behind the project, that’s not the easiest thing to do in the world as we’ve seen with Wave and Buzz. There will need to be compelling reasons to share on Google+ instead of Facebook and/or Twitter or, at the very least, along with all of those networks.