Like others in the social sphere, I’ve been playing around with Google+ since its release last week (thanks to James Herbert). Like the Google Buzz experiment, I’ve been casually playing with it to see how Google envisions their second stand in the social sphere. So, I’m a bit cautious to make any predictions as to whether it is truly the Facebook-Twitter-All-Things-Social killer.
If you can imagine the cosmic dust swirling around the big bang in the world of the social cosmos, you have seen bits and pieces of Google+:
- Wave – Do you remember that experiment? The general idea of allowing groups to share information and have a threaded conversation on a particular topic seemed like an enterprise win, but the lack of notifications and nebulous interface made all wave goodbye.
- Buzz – It was the Twitter killer, but it ended up being the Buzz kill–for me. The privacy faux pas set Buzz’s first footing on shaky ground. Then the inbox overload was too much. For me, it was superfluous to my twitter stream, so I eventually Buzzed off.
- Google Chat - No complaints here. The solid jabber chat interface is a mainstay for our business to stay connected. Adding video chat and eventual Voice integration will make Google Chat a Skype killer.
- Google Profile – At first, the Google Profile was a meteor in the cosmic dust. I remember setting mine up in 2009 purely for SEO purposes, but it wasn’t apparent how it ultimately played in the bigger equation.
- Social Circle – For some time, Google has been playing with Social Circle to provide more accurate search results. The idea that a friend’s interaction with a site is some predictor of my favor is probably not too far off, but it needs fine tuning.
- Picassa – Google’s acquisition of the Flickr competitor seemed to follow the YouTube acquisition as a logical move into multimedia–in my opinion for enhanced search results.
- +1 – A few months ago Google’s +1 seemed like an enhancement to Social Circle. Now with Google+ it makes much more sense.
With all of the “circling” social mass, I present to you Google+. I’m not going to recount all of the features and analysis (and trust me there is plenty). For a few nice articles, take a look at Chris Brogan’s 50 and Joshua Michele’s Google Plus, The Great Game and why Social is the One Ring to Bind the Internet OS.
Instead, I wanted to share a few of my initial observations. I think Plus is a nice collection of all of the tools that Google has developed, and I think that there are some features that it offers over the predicted enemies (Twitter and Facebook). But, I’m stuck with “why?” At its genesis, Twitter (more so than Facebook) filled a niche of apparent human need to share in excruciating detail the happenings of one’s life with a very simple interface. It was non-intrusive and non-competitive. Twitter was transparent text messaging for the world to eavesdrop. From any mobile phone, smart or dumb, a person could text about their soup, and then the users and developers built a world around this simplicity.
It seems that
Goliath, er Google, has developed a very sophisticated platform that combines many wonderful sharing features. My struggle is that it’s not anything New. Ezra Pound once said that “Literature is news that stays new.” By analogy, a social network is something New that becomes Need. Quora was new but it wasn’t needed–not every day. I am struggling to see how Plus is New. For the current users, I believe there is Need.
My second issue at the core has to do with playing nice. Twitter is ubiquitous because it was non-threatening. Application developers were able to sail through the approval of Apple, Android, Web OS, et al. with no problem because Twitter and Facebook posed little threat. Google on the other hand, has experienced dramatic setbacks with many of the applications (namely Voice with Apple). So, if I understand it correctly, Google+ is going to work best as an untethered application on my mobile device. While the HTML 5 application is acceptable on the iPhone, it doesn’t have many of the features that I expect from my social networks (i.e. real-time notifications, competition between developers (for better applications), etc.). Mobile is the key, and any viable network must play nicely with “all” mobile.
Finally, Twitter is by far my favorite social network; I love it because the users have built Twitter’s sandbox. Hash tags were a result of users agreeing how to categorize information. URL shorteners thrived because Twitter users needed a way to share links in 140 characters. Twitpics (and all variations) exploded to allow users to share their images. From the ground up developers and users have tapped ingenuity to figure out how to work within a wonderfully simple sandbox: 140 characters. On the other hand, I sense some suggestion that Google+ has defined the sandbox and I should feel free to play.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I have said for years that Twitter and Facebook are the current social platforms, and there will be eventual replacements, but I am more concerned about a thousand more niche “killers” than a single atomic explosion. The coveted designer network Dribbble is a great example of a niche network that is not the 400 pound gorilla but has great loyalty.
Are you on Google+? Connect with me. If not, let me know that you want an invite in the comments, and I’ll email you to confirm the correct email address. Most importantly, let me know your thoughts is Google+ going to be a sea change in social? Also, if you don’t mind, indicate in your comment whether you’re an android user.