I’ve had a few days to kick the tires on Google+ (pronounced ‘Google Plus’), Google’s shot across the bow of Facebook and, to a lesser degree, Twitter. It’s a nascent social network built around the concept of ‘circles’, where you group friends and acquaintances into clusters so that your online social interactions are more distinguishable than in other tools.
Google hasn’t had a great track record in software products in recent years. Sure, Chrome has been a massive success, but Knol, Wave and Buzz all failed to cross that trough of disillusionment after a flurry of early excitement.
Will Google+ make that leap? It faces the tremendous inertia of Facebook, whose more 600 million have invested serious time and effort in their profiles. That feels like a nearly insurmountable obstacle.
That said, let’s look at some of the possible reasons why they might:
- Users get bored with tools and platforms. We saw it happen when Facebook eclipsed MySpace, and when Gmail eclipsed Hotmail.
- I haven’t tried it yet, but maybe there’s a sweet spot for Google+ Hangouts, group video chat sessions. On the other hand, there are rumours afoot of a Facebook partnership with Skype which might quash this competitive advantage.
- Users might start seriously caring about privacy, and they trust Google more than they trust Facebook.
- Google+ is being integrated into all of Google’s products. If you’ve got a Google Account–for Gmail, Google Reader, Docs and so forth–then you’ll see the ‘Sandbar’, the black bar at the top of our Google apps. Much like Facebook, there’s a red notification number on this bar that will constantly be reminding you of Google+ activity. Google has an enormous existing user base, and they’re not going anywhere, so this ever-present hook into the user may be the difference-maker.
Of those four, I think only the last reason has serious merit. Why do you think Google+ could win?