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Is Google Plus The New Facebook?

2011-09-14 4 comments

Remember Myspace?  It wasn’t too long ago that people thought Myspace would keep growing and continue to be successful.  Facebook has since taken the position as the top social network with over 500 million active users reported in 2010 and all indications seemed to be pointing to Facebook’s continued growth and success with over 750 million active users a year later.  It’s become a household name and even grandma has a Facebook account.  Meanwhile Myspace use continues to decline and many analysts have written the company off as essentially dead.

So to some people it would seem crazy to predict the doom of Facebook.  But if there’s one company that could dethrone Facebook as king of social networking, it’s Google.

Also a household name, Google’s success was originally built on its search engine, which has become so ubiquitous that the dictionary now recognizes the name as a word, as in “I just googled a great new dinner recipe.”

However the world has seen continued innovation from the search engine giant and they’ve been massively successful with other services such as Gmail, Google Maps, and Picasa (their photo software).

But Google has had their share of failures too.  The most recognized examples are Google Buzz and Google Wave.  If you don’t even know what those two things are, you’re not alone.  Google has recognized their failure and abandoned them.  Yet Google has apparently learned a great deal from their mistakes, because they’ve finally stepped into the social-networking arena with a new service that seems poised to go toe-to-toe with Facebook:  Google Plus.

In case you haven’t heard, Google Plus (sometimes abbreviated as G+) is Google’s most recent attempt to create a social networking service, and from the looks of it, it’s no wonder many are calling Google Plus the “Facebook Killer.”

With Google Plus, Google has taken cues from both Facebook and Twitter.  While Twitter is not a direct competitor with Facebook because it fulfills a different function than Facebook, Twitter is certainly a company worth studying if you’re trying to build a successful social networking service.

So what exactly is Google Plus?  To put it bluntly, it’s like Facebook, but different.  But is it better?  Can it possibly compete with Facebook?  Why should we care?  If we already have a Facebook account, do we need a Google Plus account?

The answer is, yes.  Google Plus is almost certainly here to stay.  And while it may be possible for both Facebook and Google Plus to both be successful, anyone who doesn’t use Google Plus is going to get left in the digital dust.  Why is that?  If one already has a Facebook account, why do we need a Google Plus account?  Because Google Plus does a number of things that Facebook doesn’t, and it does them well.

The most exciting feature of Google Plus so far is the group video chat, which in G+ speak are called “Hangouts.”  As of right now, these group video chats support up to ten people, and as with everything in Google Plus, they’re absolutely free.  In other words, say goodbye to Skype.  While in a G+ Hangout, a small video of each person is displayed on the bottom of the screen, and whoever is talking is displayed in a large main video in the center.  After trying out a group video chat with friends and family, it is instantly apparent that these “Hangouts” will be both fun and useful.  In addition to just having a good time talking with friends or family, the group video chats are also amazingly useful for students who need to collaborate on an assignment or study together.  The business world has already embraced these group video chats for the same reasons giving Google Plus an instant significance for a large number of people.

The next way in which G+ triumphs over Facebook is privacy and sharing.  Many people have complained about Facebook’s privacy and sharing policies.  People end up accidentally sharing things with the wrong people or even making them public so anyone can see.  This includes messages, photos, videos, and anything else you might want to share with people.  Google Plus addresses this problem with a concept called “Circles.” Once you have a G+ account, you can add other people to your Circles.  For example, you might have a circle labeled “Friends,” another “Family,” “Coworkers,” “Acquaintances,” etc.  Any time you say or share something, you can easily decide who gets to see it.  That makes it much easier to prevent you from accidentally making things visible to the wrong people, which as many people know can be very bad.

As of this writing, Google Plus is still in its “testing” phase, meaning that in order to sign up for an account, you need to be invited by someone with an account.  Google is doing it this way because they want to work all the kinks out of G+ and have a smooth service before they “officially” release it to the public.   Update: Google Plus is now officially open to the public and anyone can sign up.

So go out there and give Google Plus a try.  Because it’s extremely fun, useful, and it’s here to stay.

P.S. I’m a writer for The Corsair Newspaper and you can read my article on The Corsair website (albeit an edited-down version):  http://www.thecorsaironline.com/opinion/2011/09/14/google-plus-takes-facebook-to-the-ring/

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