Google have recently launched a limited release social media platform called Google Plus. In theory it will rival Facebook but only when it has been more widely released and is ready for the general public. This is not Google’s first attempt at a social media platform but is arguably it’s most significant. A lot of time and money has gone into Google Plus, which becomes apparent upon use. Whilst many of the features are clearly borrowed from other social networking sites (one in particular) some of the features are quite innovative.
The Skype style video chat feature, named â€˜hangouts’ (evidently not a great deal of thought went into the naming) is a good addition to the tried and tested social networking features. It allows users to chat to as many as ten friends at once in a conference style video chat.
The best aspect of Google Plus by a country mile is the â€˜Circles’ feature. This is a simple tool for categorising your friends into groups such as â€˜Family’, â€˜Workmates’, â€˜School friends’ etc. This type of application is by no means a new idea but it has proved to be hard to get right. Facebook have tried a number of times to crack this type of application with limited success. Through â€˜Circles’ Google seem to have done what Facebook couldn’t and in true Google style, have come up with a simple, user friendly solution. For me â€˜Circles’ is the stand out feature and, to be honest, the only real step torward to social networking spawned by Google Plus. Google also argues that â€˜Circles’ represents a major change to privacy in social networking. Facebook have fallen down on a number of occasions as a result of what could be described as â€˜privacy failures’, as have Twitter.
So, will people join Google Plus in droves once it is fully released? Doubtful. Social networking is notoriously hard to crack, as proved by Google’s previous failures. Although Google does have the advantage of an extremely strong foundation in that it is the leading search engine by a long way it will struggle to dethrone Facebook as the King of Social Networking. This is done to the idea of â€œIf it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!â€ People have no major incentive to abandon Facebook for Google Plus so they won’t. Moreover there is very little to stop Facebook from taking a good long look at Google Plus then making a few changes of their own. I won’t be at all surprised if in a few weeks if there is a video chat function on Facebook. Nor will I be surprised if there are a few changes to the friendship group’s aspect. This highlights the position of unfathomable power that Facebook is in; they already have the foundations and following so all they have to do to keep the users happy is make a few changes/additions every so often.
This certainly won’t be the last we will hear from Google Plus and I’m sure it will enjoy a certain degree of success. It’s simple, as you would expect from Google, and it’s easy to use with some clever features. But these features won’t remain unique for long which is even less reason for people to make the transition from Facebook to Google Plus. It’s worth considering the fact that if you asked most people if they were on Facebook before 2005 they would not have been sure what you were talking about, so big change can happen (as MySpace know all too well)but it’s not easy. Time will tell.