Will Google+ get your +1?

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I can't bring myself to write a headline that involves the words "Google+," "Facebook killer" and a leading question mark. But that's no doubt what they're hoping for with this announcement, isn't it?

Let's review the contenders up until now. MySpace, aka The One Before Facebook (depending on your age and perspective), is in the throes of a slow death scene. Diaspora, the open source hopeful, flopped. And even Google's own employees admit Buzz went badly.

If you read my Diaspora posts, you know I'm ever-optimistic. And Google+ has some promise. Unlike Buzz, it's not being foisted onto unwilling users. And one can hope that Buzz was also a lesson in privacy concerns for Google--and that the lesson stuck.

It also may be coming at just the right time. Facebook has recently seen significant drops in US and Canadian users. Some point to the fact that the site has essentially reached ubiquity, as much as it can--the only users left not signed up are the ones who aren't interested, can't access it, or refuse to use it. That means the only way to go is down. But what if it's actually reaching the place that so many sites before it have--simple disinterest and overuse as the shine wears off? Maybe some have finally gotten tired of worrying about privacy. This could be Google's prime point of opportunity.

Wired quotes Shimrit Ben-Yair, Google's social graph product manager, on the other potential opportunity. "On Facebook I overshare. On Twitter, I undershare. If Google hits that spot in the middle, we can revolutionize social interaction," he said.

But then comes the sticking point of social media, and one that Diaspora promised to solve: data portability. Specifically, of your friends list, which is the make-or-break for a social media platform. If you don't have any friends, you'll never log in.

On the positive side for Google, they already have a massive user base to tap into, which they tried to blitz with Buzz and will be approaching differently this time around. And that same user base also has large amounts of infomation already in Facebook. In that same Wired article linked above (which I highly recommend reading), Joseph Smarr of Google says that he went to Facebook last year to discuss whether they would allow users to export connections. Since then, the relationship between the companies hasn't been entirely friendly.

Connections were one of the biggest problems with the way Buzz approached social media. It assumed that if you had ever emailed someone from your Gmail account, that the two of you were friends. Google+ will have to fix that, and the ability to import your connections from Facebook--many of whom you've probably never emailed--would be a big start. Right now, there's no indication that that will be an option.

On top of that, the rollout is slow. That's definitely a lesson learned over the Buzz failure. But one day in, it's not going that well, at least from my perspective. Plus.google.com says that they've exceeded capacity, even for those with invitations. A friend's Facebook status (amusingly enough) says when he tried to log in, he was sent in circles, unable to actually log in. Then he discovered he got different results in Firefox and Chrome (neither successful). I lack an invite and clicked the "Keep Me Posted" button to find out when more invitations are available. I dutifully entered my email address (shouldn't it already know, since I'm logged in to Google while on this form?) and got this:

Pluses, perils, and pitfalls, Google's biggest advantage in this venture is simply being big. The company is invested in Google+. Really invested. They believe that finding success in social platforms will be important to their business going forward. Do you think Google+ will be that success?

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chrisod's picture
Open Enthusiast

I know we all want a viable alternative to Facebook. But Google? At least Facebook mostly sticks to exploiting personal information that we voluntarily add to the site. Google is reading our email and web searches. Be careful what you wish for...

Michael B.'s picture
Open Minded

I'd like to see Google colaborate with Diaspora. Maybe together they could come up with something beautiful and amazing. I'm not entirely sure if it's safe to say Diaspora has flopped yet considering they haven't begun trying to get people to use yet, but we shall see.

suehle's picture
Open Source Sensei

Interesting idea--the collaboration. I just don't see Diaspora going anywhere. It's pretty sad when you have haters before any significant quantity of users.

mmahut's picture
Open Source Evangelist

Sadly, Diaspora guys took $100k grant and made something really bad out of it. And it had so much potential.

asrob's picture
Open Minded

It would be cool, but I don't think this is reality.


ashcrow's picture
Community Member

I really want to see a decentralized system work. It's cool to see someone who has the time and resources to be a competitor taking on Facebook but in the end users data is given up to a third party.

Can Google+ beat Facebook by being a better Facebook? I don't think so. Twitter grew fast because they took a different route. Status.net continues it's movement due to it's decentralized ability and options (public, hosted/cloud/SaaS or run it yourself) and open source (social coding?) which it adds to the mix. Without significant differences I think many people will stick with Facebook or choose to not use a Facebook style social network.

Another thing I think Google+ needs to succeed will be a migration path for Facebook users. How can a Facebook user move their content over? Sure, we geeks can use API's or scrape our data and import but that doesn't help Joe Everyguy.

I'm also worried about the whole invite thing. This was done with wave and really hurt the application. A social network, especially a centralized one, needs to have people to socialize with before the network is viable for users. For the first few months of Twitter I didn't understand why it was interesting. Once friends I knew got on Twitter then I started to have some fun _and_ make new friends.

Being that Facebook and Google+ both sound like walled gardens and it's like Compuserve versus AOL -- just it's your personal data that you pay with. Hopefully Google+ will include a 'delete all my data and account' option which is actually clear and easy to find.

With all that being said, I'd still love to try out Google+ ... but I have a feeling that invites will be hard to come by.

Trever's picture

I'm still not sold on whole idea that Facebook is significantly better than the Unix .plan file + finger. ;-)

Nigel Aves's picture

I have managed to get an account opened on Goggle+ and like all new software it has good points and bad points. With such a small number of users at the moment it is very difficult to judge one way or the other if this has pros or cons against FB.

From what I have seen so far.


Tied in closely with Gmail and I do not see a way of getting rid of the email link. I do not and never will use Gmail (have my own server / email account).

Can not find a way to send private messages. Looks like it might need a gmail account.

It looks like Photographs are feed into a Google Picasso account and I do not see a way of separating those for just Goggle+ circle users. Still investigating.


Much simpler than FB for setup.

Create a circle and you can now use "Hangout" to engage in video chat. This feature probably has the biggest chance of hurting FB.

Circles are actually a good idea for separating folks into different categories. But, I can see circles becoming hard to use if you have hundreds of people in one.


Just a few thoughts on Google+ from what I have seen. Does it stand up and shout "I'm a FB Killer"? Not at the moment and with the lack of users on it very hard to judge. The big advantage is Video hangouts but the jury is out on that until the are 1000's of circles using hangouts all trying to video con at the same time. Will it perform or will it become a one/frame a second update?


chrisod's picture
Open Enthusiast

I think Circles is the killer feature. The public circle can essentially become your blog - anybody can read it. Then under that there are multiple layers where different groups or even individuals can see only what you want them to see.

You can send a private message - just specify an individual user when doing the update and the only person that will be able to see it is that user.

Cam's picture
Community Member

I have heard it said that the masses use Facebook and don't worry about the possible downsides. I also recognise a vocal minority that reject it as a waste of time or because they don't like the way it works.
Personally I'm an avid user of FB, I 'get' social networking, but I also really dislike some aspects of it. I'm an avid user of Google search, Mail, Android, Maps, etc. and don't have any problems with their services at present.
So, I will be very pleased to spend my attention span on Google+ rather than FB. I'd relish the chance to share stuff with a bit more control over how. I won't miss the buggy and inconsistent ever changing UX landscape of FB and the way they munge your photos and randomly delete content they don't approve of (eg. links to my own ad-free blog). It's time for a change, I just need an invite :D

simonfranco's picture
Community Member

I really don't see this happening for Google. They're claiming 10 million people signed up in the first hours... Well yeah! So did I, just to check it out. Then I never went back. What kind of statistic is that? And it's their third time around, before buzz didn't they buy orkut and give that a go? It was big in Brasil, and that's about it.
Also, how much more information are we willing to supply to people who may very well be forced to turn it all over to the government over some silly legal dispute in the future? In case you haven't noticed, things are getting pretty scary lately (all over the world). Countries are rioting, debts are getting worse, taxes are raising like never before... It's all about control, as is Facebook and also Google. Information is power. What the world needs if some kind of social network that will actually incentive people to go out and socialize instead of staying at home glued to the computer.