It’s finally here, folks. Google Buzz wasn’t the social juggernaut we were all looking for, and Google Wave has already fallen flat on its face. The former was never meant to be a full-on social networking service, and I already described the eventual fate of the latter in just a few short words.
Despite their failing efforts before, Google continued working on something bigger behind the scenes, a weapon whose sole purpose is to take Facebook down from their pedestal as king of all social networking. After countless leaks of a rumored “Google Circles” and countless “debunks” and denials, Google has introduced Google+, a social network that focuses on shared experiences more than anything. Let’s take a look at what we’re getting.
It all starts with the +You option, a menu that’s comprised of several sub-options. +Circles allows you to create and maintain a specific circle of friends. If you want to group all of your paintballing buddies into one circle, you can do just that. If you only want a circle of your family members, that’s your right to do. More than just grouping your friends into a category, Circles allows you to carry out conversations and share thoughts with those people so the folks on the rest of your friends list won’t see it.
Instead of sharing that sensitive piece of information about your relationship to anyone who you call a “friend”, you can show it only to those who you know you can trust. It sounds like group messaging to me, but +Circles sounds more like an ongoing, breathing social network within a social network.
It’s no longer enough to talk about your interests. No, the rich experience of sharing lies within the ability to share not only what you know, but what you don’t know. The ability to explore more from certain topics with certain Circles will keep conversations fresh and exciting, from the sounds of things. Google allows you to list anything you want – from as broad a spectrum of “smartphones” right down to a very specific topic such as “HTC EVO 3D” – and they’ll feed you with relevant and interesting video, images and web pages from around the web for you and your friends to talk about.
Let people know that you’re willing and wanting to talk to them, and they can come and hang out with you at their convenience. It’s all driven by Google’s video calling technology, likely from the same branch that now powers Gtalk’s video calling. You and multiple friends within circles can engage in video calling and you don’t necessarily have to invite them. Just say you’re willing to hang out and they’ll come if they are, as well.
And you had to guess Google was going to let you take all of this fun on the road. They’ve created Google+ to interface with mobile. Considering people actually move around and might not have an extra hand or two to sit down and open a laptop, it’s a sensible move. Sure, there are other social networks with mobile applications, but Google+ users every little bit of a mobile device to enhance the experience.
- Location: Add your location to every post, if you want. Simple, no?
- Instant Uploading: That video or picture you take can be automatically uploaded to the cloud with your permission. It’s stored in a private folder until you decide what you want to do with them. This makes it so that you don’t have to remember to upload every single picture and it keeps everything in one location no matter what device you’re on.
- Huddles: Instant group messaging. Send a blast message to everyone in a specific circle without having to specify who you want to send it to. Again, glorified group messaging but Google makes it easy and more personal.
All of that and everything before it is available to you on the go.
Will it work?
We’ve been expecting Google to take on Facebook in the social space for quite some time. The plot thickened when it was discovered that Facebook would be trying to make search through social networking a reality, something that could help them leapfrog Google to become the most used website on the internet. While Facebook has yet to confirm these plans, Google’s already come from the other side of the road and introduced social to their already-monstrous search platform.
Google’s angle here is to make your social network more personal to you. On Facebook, you may have anywhere from 10 to thousands of friends. Anything you post as a status is posted to all of them, not just certain ones. And if you only want certain people to see certain statuses, you either delete them or just message them. Google+ treats social networking how you treat your real social life – you talk to certain people about certain things. It’s genius, in my opinion.
And Google already has a nice platform to launch this on. EVERYONE uses Google, and hundreds of millions of people are using Android. Android is poised to become the top operating system in the world in just a few short years. The ability to fully integrate a social networking platform into their hot mobile product is a huge advantage. Facebook has apps, sure, but the sort of integration we’re likely to see down the line from Google will make Facebook wish they’d brought that Facebook phone out.
Google’s not going to stop on Android. They’ve already got Google+ in the works for iOS, and we’re sure they wouldn’t mind bringing it to other popular platforms before too long. The way I see it, Google has a leg up on Facebook in terms of sheer online capital. They have the users, they have the platforms, and they have the resources to leapfrog Facebook in the social networking space, ultimately solidifying their spot as the biggest web technology company in the world should Google+ prove successful.
Will it dethrone Facebook and shove them into irrelevance just as Facebook did MySpace? Not likely. Not in the near future, anyway. But that’s OK, because I see Google+ more as an alternative than a replacement and it’s a fresh change of pace from the norm as every other platform from here to Timbuktu tries to emulate Facebook down to the very “T”. I like what Google’s done here and look forward to trying it out for myself.