Last week, Google announced their latest endeavor, and attempt to compete with Facebook, Google+. Google says this project is an attempt to “fix” the way people interact online, bringing the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software, which they believe are often lost in the rigidness of online tools. While I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who thinks Facebook, Skype or Twitter are “rigid,” there are certainly some cool features that Google+ is boasting:
- Circles: groupings of friends like family, colleagues or classmates, so you make sure to share the right stuff with the right people
- Hangouts: video chats with friends that people in your circles and see and join
- Instant Upload: automatic uploads of photos and videos from your phone to a private album that you can later decide to share with specific people
- Sparks: directs users to interesting videos or articles on their designated topics of interest
- Huddle: group chat function
Amidst claims that Google+ looks almost exactly like Facebook, it’s ironic to note that the site’s most popular user is currently Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. It makes sense that Zuckerberg would want to check out the competition, and he’ll likely find very similar experiences on the home page (a.k.a. Facebook wall) with features like +1 (a.k.a. Facebook likes), stream (a.k.a. Facebook news feed) and even friend suggestions and status updates with video/photo/link attachments. You can even see from the screen grab below of my Google+ homepage that the layout even mirrors Facebook:
In just my first few days trialing the service, there are a few features that do seem to be improved, including the ability to share your status updates with only select groups or “circles” of friends, or the entire public. Also, as an avid Gmail user, it’s great that my Gchat is right on the homepage too! Otherwise, the service seems almost identical to Facebook, except without the hundreds of friends using it to make it worthwhile (yet).
So, will Google be able to cripple Facebook’s seven-year advantage and 750 million users with Google+? Google+ certainly has some advantages, beyond its sheer market share, like its Android connection and mobile capabilities, but it will likely take a long time before it accumulates the user base to usurp the social media giant, Facebook.
How do I plan to use it? With people’s private and public lives becoming increasingly intermingled online, I think it’s important to strike a balance between work and social elements. I plan to keep my Facebook account centered around my friends and social life while my Google+ account will become more professionally based, as it grows.
Don’t have a Google+ account yet? Don’t worry, Google will be releasing more invites soon, so stay tuned!