I’ve been using Googles new social service Google+ for a while. Everyone has thoughts and opinions. Here is what I think.
The most compelling aspect of the service to me is that Google looks at the service as a layer in their other products rather than a standalone product itself. At this time, search,gmail and contact services all have the social layer embedded in the top nav bar. Other services will have them soon. This is one feature facebook should be worried about.
UI. This is one area that facebook has never shown much focus on. They never had smooth transitions in anything. In a sense they are anti-Apple in design. Google has done a fantastic job in the UI design of Plus. For instance, their Circles feature. They have made it so easy that grouping people seems like no task at all. And obviously, their minimal approach to design shows all over. Google+ clearly wins over Facebook in UI, hands down.
Hangout: This is one feature that is praised a lot by the early users. And it sure seems to have some meat. Hangout is a group video chat service, that runs on the browser. But, it needs a plugin to be downloaded. The service automatically detects the person who is talking in the group, and switches the video focus to that person. Kinda neat. Skype charges for the same feature. Google definitely one uped Skype in that.
Any product lives only if it can answer the question, what specific problem does it solve? The answer is Twitter for some, Facebook for someothers and nothing new for a a few. This is a problem. So, even if it the product has the potential to take away market share from Twitter and Facebook, it wont overthrow any of those services soon. Cuz, when I get on twitter, I know what the platform does and why people are there. I’m not so sure of everyone in Plus does it. Plus tries to be everything for everyone. I’m not so sure if would work. May be having two distinct networks, Facebook and Twitter just complicates Social and Plus is the solution for it. I dont know. Time would answer the question.
Another problem with Plus is that finding the right people becomes a nightmare once you cross a few friends. I added a few of my friends and some tech folks into my circles. Now, when I try to look up someone who has recently joined Plus, I see 95% of unknown people, people who are in the circles of tech folks I follow. My few friends who are on Plus are lost in the mix.
In the past two weeks, Plus has been cited by many tech experts as providing a lot of engagement in conversations compared Facebook. I think that is a mirage. People on Plus have very few friends now and no distraction. They are going to keep talking to those who are already there. Once they have enough to do, engagement will drop. They are also mostly tech folks talking within themselves. Wait until the general crowd enters the scene and everyone has 300+ friends.
Finally, Google Plus needs a time sink like Farmville to gain share from Facebook. If Google wants people to use Plus extensively for longer periods of time, they needs apps and games. This may be the time to leverage their investment in Zynga. But, may be Google’s vision is not to keep you on Plus as long as possible, but rather to stop you from leaving their sites to talk to your friends.
In the not so distant feature, Google might will integrate all their products with Social being an important underpin. But its a long way to go and Facebook and Twitter are not the sleeping hare.