Google+ takes on the world....
Everyone is talking about google plus, and pretty much all of them are talking about how Google is taking on Facebook. This is particualy true with Facebook anouncing it's panicked reactions to Google+'s scope. Facebook announced a partnership with Skype for a video chat feature. (Considering how flakey text chat is on facebook, its hard to imagine this will be a rousing sucsess) and their attempt to challenge Google's Circles with Beknown. Its no surprise therefore that the Google+/Facebook comparisons are common.
However, to me, Google+ is more ambitious than that. They don't want to just challenge Facebook and replace it like for like. They are going bigger. Much bigger. All social media.
To me, there are six key social media network types: Personal (Facebook, Myspace, Friendster etc) Professional (Linkedin), Photography (Flickr, Picasa, Instagram), Location (Foursquare, Places) Video (YouTube) and micro (Twitter). Each of these has advantages and for various reasons don't overlap well. You don't want to share the same thing with your business colleagues as you do with your personal ones for example. and the micro advantage is being able to follow desperate interests. Some might claim Mobile as a seventh, but personally, I feel that Mobile is just a channel available to all of these types.
Google wants them all to be under Google+ Interesting, impressive and just a little scary.
This is obvious. Google+ has a layout almost identical to Facebook and uses similar terminology. It is clearly the primary target of Google.
Facebook, as noted above, has come up with another 'bolt-on' service that attempts to offer sufficient segregation of your profile to allow you to add work colleagues to your Facebook account. This has been an ongoing and ongoingly unsuccessful attempt from Facebook to branch out of the simple personal social network and into a Professional one because they are aware of the strength of that partnership. However, Facebook is so established as a personal location, and there have been so many stories of people missing out on jobs because an employer found an embarrassing image or post of Facebook that they have struggled.
Google+ is tackling this in two ways. First, your profile is much more structured for a corporate account and gives a degree of control that is only possible with great focus on Facebook. (and with Facebook's continual privacy amends, it also requires ongoing vigilance.). Secondly, they have Circles. Cicles are just like Facebook "Lists" should have been. Easy to amend from almost anywhere and simple to maintain and update. With a Circle you define a groupe of people. For example, I have Friends, Family, Acquaintances, Photography, Technology. Project Management, Work.... and so I can post an update, for example about this blog, and only send it to those Circles who are interested. It is this that Google hopes will give their users the courage to use one site for their personal and professional lives.
Photography is an interesting one. Google already owns one of the primary photography sites out there, Picasa, though it is a distant second in the minds of most serious Photographers to the amazing (Yahoo owned) Flickr.
Facebook has alot of photographs, though they are snaps and family shots in the most part as opposed to art. That's not a dismissive thing, Facebook's implementation of photo-sharing is a big reason they are popular. I love being able to easily share photos of friends and family, but my artwork has different requirements.
By using Picasa as their photography platform for socail photography sharing Google are bringing in an 'enterprise level' solution to compete with Facebooks "off the shelf" approach. Its a lot more powerful and functional, but there is a danger that they will lose the Photography focus because all of a student the primary customer base, photographers, has become the tiny minority to people looking for an easy way to share family pictures.
Google places is very focused on their mapping services at the moment, but this will change. With Google+ Mobile and a decent number of users (and you know they will be leveraging their Android Platform for this) they will rapidly be able to match Facebook Places or Foursquare.
At the moment, there is no real advantage to using the Google Places, and no doubt they will soon integrate through the standard API with Foursquare, Facebook and Gowalla. Its a weaker offering at the moment, but the functionality is there.
Nothing to say here, Google is already King.
The big use for Twitter is the rapid sharing, globally, of information in a somewhat easy to sort form. The hash-tags, reminding me SO much of IRC, Like Facebook, Google+ has its status, but it also has "Sparks" a way of following updates and information by content type. It is a similar, though subtly different, approach to Twitter. It is almost like subscribing to hash-tags.... Whether this will be a preferable way of doing things for users is too early to say, but it is immediately obvious that it is beneficial to marketers. Users subscribe to interests and so segment themselves, as opposed to Twitter where they are having an ongoing issue finding a workable income model because there users profiles and usage is unfocused.....
It would be easy to dismiss the above as a scatter-gun approach; throwing challenges everywhere hoping something sticks, especially after the Google Wave and Google Buzz failures. However, as I have hopefully illustrated, these are not empty challenges, they are focused surgical strikes. They are offering competition to each of these areas and are trying to convince users that the is a big advantage in having all their eggs in one basket.
My concern is, should Google pull this off, then they essentially run Search, Video, Pictures, personal networks, professional networks, Interests and locations. Google becomes the majority of our internet. We really have to hope that "Do No Evil" holds.....