The September 2011 edition of the PCWorld magazine is out and one article that did catch my attention is the comparison of Facebook with its yet to be launched, but extremely threatening rival, Google+ (Google Plus).
In Nigeria, Google+ is yet to catch on, with most people not even aware of the new big entrant into the Social Networking circles.
Google+ is still in what they term “Field Testing” stage, meaning that the services have not been opened to the public yet, but to just a select few. These select few are in excess of 25 Million as of today. This may seem insignificant to the 750 Million strong membership of Facebook, analysts expect that there would be a membership explosion once the doors are thrown open. However, those who are unwilling to wait till then may have a privileged feel of the Google+ services here.
So, what is it that Google+ is offering that is so different from that of Facebook?
Matter of fact, not much.
Networking via Circles
The manner in which you add friends to Google+ sets it apart: The service culls a list of friends from your Gmail account, and you drag and drop them into “Circles.” You can create Circles for different parts of your life, such as for work, college friends, or a carpool. You update your Google+ Stream (the counterpart to Facebook’s News Feed), but unlike on Facebook you can share posts with specific Circles. That way your coworkers don’t see the updates meant for your softball team, and vice versa.
Google+ doesn’t require Friend Requests. You can follow anyone, profiles are all public, and anything you choose to share publicly can be viewed by anyone on the Web, Google+ member or not. Think of Google+ as a mix between Twitter and blogging tool Tumblr.
Among other nifty features, Google+ has Hangout, which lets up to ten people chat via webcam simultaneously. (Facebook is meeting that challenge, announcing a partnership with Skype for one-on-one video calls.) But for the most part Google+ borrows heavily from Facebook, offering features such as photo tagging, posting on friends’ walls, and the ability to post a video to your Stream with one simple URL.
Will the Circle Stay Unbroken?
The future of Google+ is anyone’s guess. How long can Google maintain the private-club atmosphere before it’s pressured to invite big brands, advertisers, and the masses? Gaming, commerce, and dancing-cat videos can’t be too far off for Google+ if the network’s population swells.
On top of that, one privacy misstep or product-quality blunder could doom the project. Google is trying to avoid privacy problems in light of the Buzz debacle, when users’ contacts were briefly exposed to the public. That episode triggered an FTC investigation and a settlement in which Google agreed to submit to privacy audits for the next 20 years.
The biggest item on critics’ lists concerns how Google’s ad business might fit into Google+. “If you marry the strength of the search that Google has with the behavioral base of social media that Facebook has, that’s a one-two punch,” says Judy Shapiro, an AdAge.com blogger and CEO of EngageSimply. “But our privacy becomes the collateral damage.”
Google+ vs. Facebook
With 750 million members, Facebook doesn’t have much to worry about – yet. But instead of wondering whether Google+ can beat Facebook, we ought to ask whether they can coexist.
The idea that they can offer different kinds of social media and get along peacefully isn’t crazy. People have made Flikr albums, Twitter profiles, AIM handles, YouTube channels, and Tumblr pages. Surely there’s room for one more?