Speculation often causes people to talk out of both sides of their mouth when passing judgment or expressing an opinion. This is not one of those times. While expressed as opinions, everything I’m about to post is true about the Google+ Project. The only speculation is in how Google will proceed and if Facebook can make the moves to fight them off.
In reality, much of it is out of Facebook’s control. Their success or failure is, for the first time, almost completely out of their hands.
Despite the way people would answer the question if polled, years of experience have taught me that most people do not like change. They might want to be adventurous and cutting-edge but in reality most prefer the familiar. They might want situations to change, but changes in the tools that help us manage our lives are normally greeted with skepticism. We don’t want to have to learn new ways to do the things that we’ve been doing all along.
One of Facebook’s biggest challenges has been making changes at a platform level. Even minor interface changes are often met with hate. There are 1.5 million members of the Facebook group We Hate The New Facebook, so STOP CHANGING IT!!! Keep in mind, the group was started based upon changes made nearly 3 years ago. It’s so old that it’s scheduled to be archived.
Three years ago, Facebook was the modern interface fighting against another huge social network of the day: MySpace. Facebook offered things that MySpace could not. It represented a way to simply connect with friends and family while MySpace was more about accumulation and bling. MySpace failed. Facebook took over. Could we be seeing the same thing happening again?
Google’s interface, what little we’ve seen of it, is extraordinarily superior to Facebook. Most of the things that annoy people about the Facebook interface have been addressed and corrected with Google+. Circles, for example, is something that technically can be done on Facebook, just not nearly as easily. A group of Facebook engineers have already hacked up an app that mimics it.
Google+ solves challenges that Facebook has never addressed. Huddle, for example, allows for quick group chats across all devices that consolidates texting and chat into something easier.
Each individual element of Google+ is more integrated with “real life” than the Facebook counterpart (or lack thereof). To one blogger I discussed it with, Google+ “opened my eyes to what I was missing with Facebook.” Needless to say, she can’t wait.
The iPad is over a year old. The iPad 2 is 3 months old. As of today, there is still no Facebook iPad App, though they say it’s coming shortly. This is the kind of slow development that is normally associated with, well, Google. The iPhone App works fine for most circumstances but there is certain to be better functionality in the new one (which CEO Mark Zuckerberg is rumored to be helping with himself.
Google has done very well integrating with mobile, and we’re not talking about Android. That’s a separate item altogether and the fact that they have a mobile OS with half a million new activations a day has little bearing on Google+. The mobile integration we’re talking about is specifically with life-tools. They could do more, but the ways that Google has integrated voice, search, and localization have been strong – I’d rate them a B+.
Google+ has the potential to bring everything in our personal (and potentially business) lives full circle to be managed and monitored from smartphones, tablets, netbooks, and laptops – basically anything that can be put in a pocket or a bag and toted around while we live.
Simply stated, the Instant Upload feature is beautiful. Images and videos taken on mobile devices are pushed to a private album on Google+. This is done in the background. When ready, users can go through their album and decide which items to post, how to post them, and who to post them for.
Huddle, mentioned above, has the ability to consolidate mobile communication in a way that Facebook hasn’t. Sure, Facebook Message has the same basic ability, but it lacks elegance and has yet to be the game-changer it was billed as. Just another chat area. While I don’t have the stats on how many users have integrated their Facebook email address into it, I would guess that adoption has been minimal.
People are using Facebook on mobile devices like crazy, but that’s not necessarily because Facebook has done a good job on mobile. Places was a strong play. Tagging was excellent. Checking in is fun for many but it’s such a small part of the location-based pie that it can be easily eclipsed. Google may not do any better, but the tools are coming and they look strong. We may see a Google+ iPad app before we see a Facebook one. It’s unlikely, but until I see it in the App Store I’m taking nothing for granted.
People often confuse “local” and “mobile”. They’re so closely tied together that some often don’t realize that there’s a distinct difference between having apps and interfaces that work on mobile devices and having software that is GPS-driven with databases of information about every square mile of most major cities in the country and across the world.
Google has local integration heading in the right direction. Facebook has Places and checkins. The difference is gigantic. Currently, Facebook’s strength is that it makes it easy to see what friends and random people are saying about various locations. Tagging allows people to socialize online while in the same venue. Pictures, videos, and status updates makes Facebooking while at a restaurant with friends fun.
Google+ will be able to the same and more.
Many businesses are on Facebook. Most venues have their own page. The amount of data about these local venues is amazing, but it’s not in the same galaxy as Google. EVERY business, organization, and venue is on Google, and the data about each is staggering. For every tip or comment about a venue on Facebook, there are 20 reviews of the same place on Google. Adding Google+ to the mix brings the localization of social networking full circle.