You can’t fault their tenacity. Or their ambition. Because it’s becoming clear that Google’s going to keep coming up with new social media products until one of them sticks, finally, like well-cooked spaghetti to a virtual wall.
The search giant’s latest foray into the world of social is Google+, which is not to be confused with the Google+1 button it launched a few weeks ago, is certainly in no way connected to Google Wave (which, like a ginger stepchild, Google doesn’t like to talk about) and, for those of you keeping track, definitely not Orkut, Google’s ‘big in Brazil’ social network.
So what is it then?
Obviously seizing upon the privacy concerns surrounding Facebook, Google+ allows you to divide your friends and acquaintances into user groups, known as Circles. One for friends, one for family, one for work colleagues, one for the annoying old school friends you’re too embarrassed to reject the friend requests from: the definitions are your own. You can share – or not – your information with each of these Circles in different ways. It takes sharing and privacy down to a granular level that, whilst possible to some extent with Facebook, isn’t as easy to do.
Circles is just one small part of the initial triumvirate offered by Google+ though. This social networking baby also comes with Sparks and Hangouts.
Sparks is defined by Google as: “Remember when your Grandpa used to cut articles out of the paper and send them to you? That was nice. That’s kind of what Sparks does: It looks for videos and articles that it thinks you’ll like, so that when you’re free there’s always something to watch, read and share. Grandpa would approve.”
Er… ok. And Hangouts? “Bumping into friends while you’re out and about is one of the best parts of going out and about. With Hangouts, the unplanned meet-up comes to the web for the first time. Let your mates know that you’re hanging out and see who drops by for a face-to-face-to-face chat. Until we perfect teleportation, it’s the next best thing.”
So, let me get this straight: we’ve got a Facebook-like service which allows you to drag and drop your friends into different pools, a search algorithm which finds ‘stuff’ it thinks you might be interested in (and, remember, it’s like Grandpa used to do… did your Grandpa have a handle on what really interested you?) and a cross between Skype and Chatroulette.
Facebook might as well shut up shop now. It’s doomed.
If you want to get 700m people to move to your service, you’ve got to give them a reason to do so. Create the momentum that brings the first few million at least. With the obvious hope and intention that their friends will follow the growing crowd. Success follows inertia. So is there enough in Google+ to cause this to happen?
My gut instinct says no. Though I’ve been wrong before. Not often when it comes to being cynical though.
Google’s made it achingly-obvious that it wants a piece of the social networking action. It’s come late to the game and hopes to capitalise on its brand to entice people to jump on board whatever it develops.
But why would people move to something that is either identical to what they’re already using (and, more importantly, what their friends are already using) or offers something “new” that Facebook could add in a heartbeat. Indeed, probably will add if there’s even a suggestion that Google’s gaining traction.
They won’t. Google isn’t cool. Google isn’t a social network. As former Yahoo!-er and respected blogger Tom Coates put it on Twitter: “Fundamentally, Google is a utility. No one wants to hang out at their power company.”
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