It’s slightly ironic that just 6 days after I blogged about “Social Networks in 2011 – it’s all about contextual networks“, Google should launch their new service: Google+, or Google Plus. Google+ is for my money, a sign of things to come and a significant disruption to the social media market. In fact, I think we will see a completely different landscape by the end of 2012 with a shift of power.
What does Google+ bring that’s new?
The most significant thing is the ability to easily build contextual networks. Its concept of “circles” allows you to group friends, enemies, mentors, colleagues, customers into easily managed lists that mean you can switch between social contexts. Don’t want to worry about work rubbish during the weekend? Switch to your friends circle and leave work behind.
Other than that there’s a bunch of useful things like the ability to chat, video chat, share photos etc. etc. I particularly like the “hangout” option, where you can video chat with a group of people that form part of a circle. As a blogger that loves the back channel, I can see that be a really useful place to have an off-the-record chat with a bunch of people.
What’s Google+ missing?
Tons of stuff. It feels pretty basic, the conversations aren’t well threaded and can be hard to follow and the email notifications are driving me a bit nuts. But none of that matters if Google invest in it and continue to improve user experience. Because they have a whole bunch of people around the world that use Google as their homepage, and those people will get their G+ bar at the top of the screen. And keep using it. Supposedly 10 million people have joined in 2 weeks, which is incredible – in the top 50 social media sites already.
Google+ vs Facebook
Facebook isn’t under any threat just yet and probably won’t be, because the social media market needs competition and Facebook offers that. They also have incredible customer loyalty, with FB people spending on average 30 minutes a day.
But Facebook is starting to feel a bit limiting – you can’t easily group people which means that having work and personal contacts in one place can be uncomfortable, and as a collaboration platform for documents, rich media and videos, it is a bit limiting. Plus they have been slow to market with mobile apps – something which Google appear to have got right on day 1 – there is an iPad app on the way through the Apple approvals process.
Google+ vs Twitter
I think Twitter is in real trouble. It has poor support for threaded conversations and can be impossible to follow. Plus it’s really difficult to manage lists of people and keeping your followers under control is a pain. Add to that a growing spam problem and the limitation of 140 characters when most devices are rich and allow longer updates to be read easily.
Google+ isn’t taking Twitter on head to head yet, but if they improve the conversation thread, email notifications and provide excellent mobile apps, people may flock to it en masse.
Google+ vs LinkedIn
Again I think LinkedIn is in real trouble. It’s a poor platform for collaboration and most people use it as an online CV and linking engine – I often use it to check out new recruits, customers etc.
If Google build in the professional side of LinkedIn – support for places to work, recommendations, shared contacts and company sites, I think that LinkedIn is in real trouble fast, because they’re not a destination site – just somewhere that you go to get a job done.
Google+ vs Skype
Again I think Skype is in real trouble. Facebook doesn’t do video or audio chat yet (get a move on Zuckerberg) and Google+ support for chats and hangouts is fantastic – they have used the GTalk engine. My initial test suggest that Skype remains much better especially on poor connections, but Google may fix this.
If so I can see myself using G+ above Skype because it’s convenient and I’m there already, and so are my friends and colleagues. Which may be a worry for the $8bn that Microsoft just spent, although they need the technology platform for other purposes e.g. Lync.
Google+ vs Apple
It’s an interesting one because Apple are approaching it from the other angle – get your documents, emails and music in their cloud first. But make no mistake, it’s a content war – the war to get your content uploaded to their website. Once they’re there, building out the Social Media platform around it can only come next. But their position is safe building from the other direction with iCloud for now.
Just my opinion but I think by the end of 2012, we will have seen a consolidation of the major players and Apple, Google and Facebook will start to be the 3 dominant social media players.
It’s bad news for LinkedIn, Skype, Twitter and others but I think it’s an inevitable consequence of the fragmented market.