Google yesterday announced the launch of the annoyingly named Google+ which has been widely dubbed as a competitor to Facebook. It is a service that allows users to add people (friends) to circles (groups) to which you then share updates, images and videos. I’m not going to go into the ins and outs here but the project page at Google has six videos that explains the concept (warning the tone, words and music may lead to excessive inspiration).
Obviously Facebook will be at risk here but if you look past the features that, if we are being honest, appear in every social networking service known to man. Is Facebook really the main target here? Perhaps the most intriguing aspects or Google+ are the huddle and hang-out functionality. Huddle allows a sms free text conversation between groups of people and the hangout functionality enables a group of people to video chat at the same time. This will obviously be of great concern to Skype who not so long ago were acquired by Google’s biggest rivals Microsoft in a staggering $8.5m deal. The difference with Google+ is that it will allow people to stay in touch even if they don’t have cameras, microphones or a sufficient broadband connection available (on the move, developing countries etc.). If people can use one service in different scenarios it stands to reason that it will have a large uptake.
For what it’s worth, I think Google+ could take a big chunk out of Facebook’s market share, and if they were being honest they would love to do that as advertisers begin to dabble with advertising on social media sites. They just may do it to as it will have been engineered with the social aspect in mind, Facebook has had to adapt over the years and as a result, to my mind at least, is a clunky website with poor privacy handling – I bet they would do things differently given a clean slate. The problem with Google though, is that they are masters at generating hype but are prone to deliver products that are although technically brilliant are confusing to the average user (My view on Buzz). Time will tell and I can’t wait to see what happens….
Oh and wait until Google allows you to search real conversations (you heard it here first!).
Update (02/07011): With absolutely impeccible timing, Facebook and Skype have announced an interesting partnership that sort of undermines the whole article. Facebook will now allow video chat using skype, so now Google will be a bit miffed – keeping up?