Is Google+ the new Twitter or FaceBook? Could it be a replacement for Skype, Qik and Flickr?
These are some of the big questions swirling around as everyone tries to wrap their heads around Google's new social network, Google+.
I only have my account for a day and will reserve judgment until I give it my best efforts, but I can tell you this about my social networking experience:
- As with all new social networks (Buzz, Plurk, Orkut, Friendster) I proceed with cautious optimism.
- I firmly believe that the key to any social network transition, is bringing your already-established network with you, and then increasing it further (if that is your goal). Point: if you can't bring your network with you, then you'll find yourself checking into multiple SNs, which will quickly grow tiresome.
- Posting to multiple sites is fine, but tends to annoy. (See bullet #2.)
- FaceBook has a huge advantage in that even older generations and self-proclaimed techno-phobes are using FB. I'm not sure I see a quick bolt to Google+ for these folks.
- Branding is everything. Google has landed the search term; everything gets "Googled." I'm thinking that FaceBook may have cinched the everything-related-to-social-networking term.
- I am comfortable with FB, understand how the privacy settings work and use them well. Today. Last week, FB changed my settings on me and I had to tweak them. Again.
- Too many other folks who use FB, are NOT as aware of the privacy settings as am I, and those in my social network, and frankly I'm tired of seeing and reading about very smart people shooting themselves in the feet because FB makes it too difficult for them to figure it out. Then again, NONE OF US are very good at chasing moving targets.
- Most of us are clamoring for something secure, clean and easy that could be a potential use in the classrooms. This looks very promising, and not sure what it would look like for the Google Apps in Education user but (Google are you listening?) if there is no possible way for teachers to moderate student comments before they go live, large U.S. public school districts will likely take their 19th century ball and go home.
From what I can see so far, Google+ makes it pretty easy to create your network (not sure what it looks like for someone who has not established one yet). What I like best about Google+ is the fact that before you share anything, you must choose who to share it with; unlike FB which works exactly the opposite where the default is "share with [your default]" and you can choose to hide from specific groups or individuals. By creating "circles" (or groups) of people, you can organize your contacts so that you can, for example, publish your children's birthday celebration photos and share updates on your latest medical procedure to your family members only. I'm liking the idea that my "geek-talk" doesn't have to spill over to my non-geeky friends; that is IF they come over to Google+. (See bullet #2.)
Jason Calacanis talks about Google+ in this week's episode of This Week in Startups, and recently wrote a post, "Why Google+ Will Take Half of The Social Networking Market From FaceBook (or There Goes Calacanis Again"). I recommend reading the entire post, but copied and pasted below just a portion of his post to share his top reasons why he thinks Google+ will totally rock.
Here are my top reasons why Google+ will be a crushing success.
1. Larry Page and Sergey Brin are using the product
When Larry Page took over as CEO, I sent him an email and told him that if Google was going to be taken seriously as a player in social, he needed to get a Twitter account and start using it. Leadership starts at the top, and Google’s leadership is, finally, taking social seriously. Notoriously press-shy Larry (how many interviews has he done since taking over as CEO? oh yeah, zero) sharing kiteboarding photos speaks volumes. Sergey is also posting, interestingly, action shots (a sky-diving photo).
2. Forced categorization of contacts
Google+ forces you, through an elegant user interface, to put your contacts into circles. When you update your profile (a.k.a. your Facebook newsfeed or Twitter stream), you are forced to select who you want to give this information to. This throttles how quickly you can build your social network and how quickly you can share with it -- and that’s a good thing! Zuckerberg elected to build Facebook as fast as possible, and he believed people would never take the step to select which groups they wanted people to belong to, let alone which groups they would send to. That decision, combined with the horrible treatment of a user’s privacy, has meant that many people simply do not trust Facebook. Google realizes this, and in a brilliant move the company has, as Dave Winer says, “zigged where they zagged.”
3. Google Hangouts is as good as Skype, and a lot more fun
Google Hangouts is a 10-person, video chat product that’s fun and free. You can hangout with your address book in seconds, it’s rock solid and -- did I mention -- completely free. I could certainly see myself using this product instead of firing up Skype.
4. Chrome Browser and Chrome Store integration
If you didn’t know, Chrome now has 20.7% of the browser market. That’s from a cold start with the beta launch in September 2008. Google also has an app store that competes with the iTunes store and charges 30% to developers for apps just like Apple. However, Google only charges 5% for in-app purchases, while Apple holds the line at a very unfair 30% for in App purchases. That’s how Google like to do it: take your competitors revenue stream--be it Microsoft Office, Windows, Apple’s iOS or Apple’s in App purchases--and make them free (or close to free). Google gave Angry Birds away for free on Chrome starting on May 12. More than 1M folks downloaded it in the first 10 days. Boom.
Browser market share = power.
Facebook does not have a browser or an app store -- yet. You can be sure there are 50 developers somewhere on the Facebook campus working on one right now -- 100% sure.
5. Android integration
Let’s do some deep, deep analysis shall we?
a) Apple has a mobile operating system but no social network.
b) Facebook has a social network, but no mobile OS.
c) Microsoft has a mobile OS but no social network (arguably, Skype is a dormant one [ http://launch.is/blog/l018-how-microsoft-spent-7b-on-skype-and-15b-on-a-facebook-k.html ]).
d) Google has a social network and an operating system.
Who’s going to have the best mobile social user experience?
If you answered D, you are correct.
6. The avant garde have left Facebook already
Last week I gave the opening keynote for the fabulous Future of Web Apps conference in Las Vegas. If you’ve never been to a Carsonified event, I highly recommend it, as it’s filled with people who actually build stuff (as opposed to CEOs like me who simply take credit for other people’s work). During that keynote I asked how many folks used Facebook for photo-sharing. About 15% to 20% of the audience raised their hands. I asked how many folks used a new service like Instagram, Path or Twitter to share their photos, and 70% of the audience raised their hands. I asked how many people were using Facebook more now than last year. Almost no one raised their hands. The tech-savvy crowd has grown tired of Facebook and Facebook’s privacy games -- including the huge misstep of making facial recognition opt-out and not opt-in -- are starting to drive folks from the platform.
What are your thoughts on Google+? Will you stay with me?