“Google +” Facebook with a bouncer and VIP areas?
Google recently released their latest venture, the ‘Google + Project.’ This is not Google’s first step into the social networking sphere, most of us will remember Google Buzz which launched last year and was a monumental flop. More recently Google Wave was hyped to change the way we managed information for ever, again a huge flop, not least because no one could quite figure out how to use it. With this decidedly poor social networking history in mind, will Google + have a chance against the Facebooks of this world?
I was lucky enough to grab an invite to the G+ Program, but before I talk about my experiences thus far I’d like to emphasise that you have to get an invitation to get on the program at the moment. As irritating as this is I think this is symptomatic of what Google has in mind for G+. When Buzz was released it was released to all Gmail users overnight. Everyone instantly had access to it, and instantly had everyone they had ever emailed added to their contacts list. This threw up two issues, firstly who wants everyone they have ever emailed to see their status updates etc. And by launching it in such a forceful manner, instilling it upon the consumer overnight, it was an easy target for those of us who didn’t want to use it. The invitation only aspect of G+ wi change, but for now it retains an aura of mystery for those people who cannot get on it, this instantly means that people want to try it out simply because it is inaccessible. A clever marketing ploy by Google which should maintain the hype around the new network, at least until it launches publicly.
Addressing the second problem with Buzz, that of a forced contact list, or buddy group, G+ is centred around ‘circles’. You can have separate circles for your online friends, your family or whatever. And you can choose to only share information within certain groups, should you wish. This immediately puts it ahead of Facebook in situations where you want limited privacy, groups of businessmen or doctors and patients can share information in secure environment with the knowledge that only select few can view it. I am loathe to immediately compare G+ to Facebook, but it is an inevitable comparison, if the relative lack of privacy on Facebook is something which worries you then G+ may be the social network for you.
I have read several articles concerning G+ and the feature many have failed to mention, and a feature I believe is one of the most attractive aspects of G+ is the cloud photo storage. You can set up your Android or IOS device to automatically upload any photo’s you take via the G+ app to a private online album. You can then share certain photos with certain circles on the network. The ability to have private pictures, and pictures that only specifically chosen friend groups can view is a step above what Facebook currently offers, and is a neat online storage solution. The overriding message Google is sending out with G+ is that the consumer should have the power to control all their privacy settings. You can share as little or as much as you like with as many or few people as you like. It’s your choice.
Google + integrates with the rest of your google services and the +1 button that many people will have seen around the internet allows you in a ‘Facebook like’ style, to share and highlight pages that you think your buddies would like to see. The other cool features of G+ is Huddle which comes with the mobile apps and allows for BBM style group or private messaging, and the Hangout feature which allows for group webchat.
All things considered I think that G+ has the potential to be a great alternative, or complement to Facebook. For those of you who are concerned about privacy then G+ could be for you. I don’t believe that it will be, as is crudely dubbed the ‘Facebook Killer,’ as the number of users on Facebook will keep it afloat for years, even decades to come, whatever Google can provide as way of competition. However I do believe that it is a great complement to it, and I will certainly carry on using both services, with G+ providing a great way to keep my photos secure in the cloud, and a nice way to communicate with my various friend groups away from the prying eyes of the millions of people on Facebook. G+ will be a success if enough people begin using it, if people us it it will be great, if people don’t use it it will go the way of Buzz and Wave. Users have the power to make and break social ventures, G+ has the potential to be great, but that on it’s own won’t be enough if people don’t minimise Facebook for a minute and try it.