Google+ or G+ pronounced Google Plus, made its online debut June 28th and has raked in tens of millions of users, despite offering admission only to those who have been invited by other users during its initial phase. Within a day the Google+ iPhone app had become the most popular free application the Apple app store.
Supporters say Google+ could eventually connect with Google’s search and email features to become a seamless addition to people’s online routines. Critics are quick to point out that there is nothing uniquely new or differentiating about the new social media site besides that it comes from the internet giant.
Google+ users organize people into different circles, making it possible to share text, video and links with focused groups, rather than their entire list of followers. This addresses critiques often lobbed at Facebook and Twitter, where dozens of posts from distant acquaintances can drown out ones from closer connections.
Google has a past of releasing new web products with a lot of hype to later just fizzle out. Do you remember Google Wave? Google Wave was a web based platform designed to merge key features of media like e-mail, instant messaging, wiki, and social network. It was released on September of 2009 to a limited user base then later released to the public. By August 4, 2010 Google had suspended development and handed it over to the Apache Software Foundation, an open source software foundation. More recently, Google released Google Buzz on February 9, 2010 and by February 16th a Harvard law student had already filed a class action lawsuit against Google, alleging that Buzz violated several federal privacy laws. Also on February 16, 2010 the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote “These problems arose because Google attempted to overcome its market disadvantage in competing with Twitter and Facebook by making a secondary use of your information. Google leveraged information gathered in a popular service (Gmail) with a new service (Buzz), and set a default to sharing your email contacts to maximize uptake of the service. In the process, the privacy of Google users was overlooked and ultimately compromised.”
Ryan Paul of Ars Technica noted “there isn’t much in Buzz that is new or original” and “the end result is a service that shows promise but lacks the requisite killer feature or innovative twist that it will need in order to truly keep people engaged.”
Google has also announced that Google + will also have a desktop version, we expect it to be similar to the many Adobe Air applications you see people using to manage their multitude of social networks. However, currently there is no API for 3rd party vendors to add integration.
Some of the specific features of Google+ are:
• “Circles” enables users to organize contacts into groups for sharing, across various Google products and services. Although other users can view a list of people in a user’s collection of circles, they cannot view the names of those circles. The privacy settings also allow users to hide the users in their circles as well as who have them in their circle. Organization is done through a drag-and-drop interface. This system replaces the typical friends list function used by sites such as Facebook.
• “Hangouts” are places used to facilitate group video chat (with a maximum of 10 people participating in a single Hangout at any point in time). However, anyone on the web could potentially join the “Hangout” if they happen to possess the unique URL of the Hangout.
• “Huddle” is a feature available to Android, iPhone, and SMS devices for communicating through instant messaging within circles.
• “Instant Upload” is specific to Android mobile devices; it stores photos or video in a private album for sharing later.
• “Sparks” is a front-end to Google Search, enabling users to identify topics they might be interested in sharing with others; “featured interests” sparks are also available, based on topics others globally are finding interesting. Sparks helps to keep users posted on the latest updates on the topics of their interest.
• In the “Stream,” users see updates from those in their circles. The input box allows users to enter a status update or use icons to upload and share photo and videos. The Stream can be filtered to show only posts from specific Circles.
• Google+ has a “+1″ button to allow people to recommend items.
• Unlike Twitter and Facebook, there is not yet an application programming interface that enables software developers to interact with Google+ programmatically.
• Similar to other Google applications, Google+ provides integration with other Google applications like Gmail, Calendar, Documents, etc.
• A “Data Liberation” option provides the ability to download one’s content from Google+.
- Will Google + go the same way of Wave or will it gain momentum and steal some of the spotlight from Facebook?
- Will you adopt Google+?
We know one thing for certain; you can count on Google to throw its full weight around when trying to get people to adopt it. You can also expect Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter to all adapt to the market place and create similar integrated solutions to mediate any potential user base decline. Ultimately, businesses ability to use Google+ might ultimately decide its fate because social networking is no longer just about communicating with friends it is about brand engagement.
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