Last night Google launched their own contender for Facebook’s crown. Google+ is the search giant’s newest concept to tackle “Zuck” and Co. at their own game and even take it further. The move surprised a large number of people in the search and social media industries, despite a number of glaring (at least in hindsight) indications. There was a suprising lack of information around the launch, not even the usual industry gossip around such an announcement. Naturally, the web has since exploded with the news.
So, what is Google+ and what does it mean to you and me?
The cynical answer would be to say that Google+ is simply the company’s copy of Facebook, intended to entice disillusioned users away from the world’s 2nd most popular website (source:
Alexa.com). However, from the announcement on the Google blog, there’s actually far much more to it.
Google’s belief is that our online social interactions are hampered by the limitations of existing social networking platforms. We’re bombarded with news from everybody on our friends list whenever they decide to post and anything we do or say is immediately available to all our contacts. Their proposed solution to this: “+Circles”. By choosing who you want to share with and when, you avoid the “spam blanket” all too common on Facebook these days (everybody knows at least one person who shares every mundane detail online) and target content to a specific group of contacts depending what you’re sharing.
In addition to communicating within various circles of friends, Google’s also covered the ability to discuss topics of interest with other aficionados via “+Sparks”. Whatever the subject, “+Sparks” can deliver a feed of multimedia content from the web which you can share with others who have similar interests.
There are of course, the obligatory mobile features such as location sharing and media uploads (done instantly to the cloud in a similar manner to Windows Phone 7’s automatic SkyDrive upload) under “+Mobile”, as well as a rather neat sounding group messaging protocol, “+Huddle”, although whether this is limited to Android devices remains to be seen.
There’s also multi-user video conferencing via “+Hangouts”, which promises to provide a way to simply hang-out with friends whenever you and they have time, without hassle of having to call around and see who’s available for a video call. I almost imagine this to be like the online equivalent of a local pub. You don’t need to call your mates to join you down there, just head down and when they’re ready, they’ll be there.
It’s a very interesting premise and one that certainly sounds platform redefining, at least in marketing speak. Google have tried a number of initiatives before which have failed to make a splash, such as their ill-fated Google Wave collaborative working platform or the rather underwhelming Buzz messaging and social networking tool. However, Google+ seems to be that little bit different and ties together a huge number of existing Google services in an extremely complementary way. Only time will tell if it’s adopted by the masses but I for one certainly can’t wait to get a hands-on trial.
For now, we’ll just have to make-do with the interactive tour.