During last few days I used Google+, a new social networking website launched by Google. Since the launch and trial invitations, everyone started comparing it with Facebook, many claimed that it is Google’s attempt to compete with Facebook. Funny illustrations popped across the web showing Google+ punching and slapping Facebook. For a day or two, it did feel like an alternate to Facebook, but after a while I started feeling that actually it is not. There are many things that are missing from Google+, it is not even an attempt to compete with Facebook, and it actually wants you to add as many people as possible, even if you don’t know them at all, you can add them to a circle.
- What is wrong with Google+ ?
- Why it is not a threat to Facebook as yet?
- What Google is trying to do?
Google has tried to launch social web platforms but all these attempts did not succeed to capture any significant share of the social web. Google Buzz is integrated right into Gmail, but still it did not gain the popularity Google expected, and we all remember Orkut.
Google+ is in trial phase right now and not open for all yet. There might be many improvements to it before it becomes available to all. Right now, it has features similar to Facebook but not all Facebook features are there. For example, there are no ‘Pages’, or ‘Groups’ yet. Even though Google has the technology to add these features by integrating Google Sites and Google Groups. Google+ has chat similar to Gmail Chat and ‘Hangouts’, which allows you to video and voice conference with your friends and family. Sparks are search results for your favorite topics from across the web. Except ‘Hangouts’, there is nothing unique to Google+.
In the User Interface area we see typical Google simplicity with some intuitive new ways to do things on Google+. Such as drag and drop your contacts in circles, and lots of cool nifty things that make it really interesting. However, there are a few things that make this UI a little difficult to understand for non-tech average Joes.
- Google should use improved typography. Can’t understand their obsession with large fonts and fear of using small but readable fonts.
- Too much empty space wasted in padding, margin and white spaces. This does make Google+ look roomier but it also hides lots of content below the scroll. People don’t like scrolling much. They want to see their updates right away when they sign in.
- The sidebars can be more compact.
- Thumbnails for shared photos and images are too large.
- Stream’s status box should be more inviting and a little wider.
Why would people want to sign up for Google Plus?
Google is the search giant, they have tools and resources to improve Google+ into something you can’t live without. For example they have already integrated social search. When you search for a keyword that has a result which one of the people in your social connections shared, Google would highlight this result. Google’s +1 works as Facebook’s ‘Like’, except that it shows your “like” or +1 as a count to the world and as a recommendation to people in your social circle. And by social circle I don’t mean people in your Google+ circles. Your social connections are people who are connected to you on any websites you have mentioned in your Google profile.
If you mentioned your facebook ID, Twitter account, or LinkedIn profile then Google will attempt to follow your social connections from there. It not only tracks your direct contacts from Gmail Contacts, facebook, Twitter and many other websites. It will also consider other people connected to you if you have a mutual friend with them. This increases your social pool significantly, mine has nearly 2000 people. You can see your social connections by visiting your Google Dashboard.
Google+ will help Google create a social platform one what is already its most strong selling point, Google Search. With Google+, +1 buttons, and many other products, Google will try to guess:
- The result you are most likely to click.
- What your friends like.
- What common interests you and your friends and their friends have.
- How often you search for content related to your interests
- And so much more.
Google will use this information to improve their products as mentioned in their TOS, and one of their products is Google Ads.
Google is not trying to beat Facebook on the social web, not yet at least. They are trying to gather a wealth of information which will generate billions of dollars in revenue. In fact, I am hoping that Google will allow Google+ users to directly post from Facebook, Twitter or any other website to their Google+ Stream. Google has already integrated +1 in search results and they are marketing it furiously across the web, asking webmasters to implement it on their websites along with other social sharing buttons.
What all this means?
- For people concerned about privacy, Google knows your social connections, they know your friends, family and acquaintances, bosses, colleagues and how often you communicate with each one of them.
- For other people, your information will be used to enhance search results, and you will be surprised how much relevant these results are going to be in near future.
- For businesses, you will have to hire a lot of people to make sure your business is connected to a lot of people. More time and money needs to be invested on social marketing. Forget your page rank, count how many people you have connected on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Youtube, and how often they +1, click, like, comment or react to the content posted by your business.
- For Search Engine Optimizers, forget link building and build links to people, that’s new direction for the web.