Google is currently having a head-to-head fight with Facebook, not just for site visitors, consumer loyalty and page views, but in other areas as well, such as pirating talents and other areas of each other’s business.
Google just served its latest salvo with Google+. Although still available by invitation only and only to what the company calls its field testers, a lot of watchers and some media outlets have started calling the Google+ service as the Facebook killer.
A company as big and liquid as Google is a difficult competitor for any online business. Google getting into social networking could surely mean the demise of current social network sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. At the very least, it is sure to leave a dent insofar as users are concerned. But is Google+ a Facebook killer?
As far as we can see, the answer is no. Or at least, not in the near future. Here’s why:
1. Google+ sucks as far as user experience is concerned.
Rule #1 in creating a successful site, and not just for social media and social networking site, is to make it easy and fast for your users to sign up and use your site. Google, it seems, did not take into consideration what people go through when trying to use their sites.
Even with an invitation, you would be asked to fill out your Google profile before you could access the Google+ site itself. Then you would need to fill in your details there. The form has some bugs as some users reported that it would not accept employment histories during the 1990s or earlier. Also, Google+ has some limitations with its profile pic upload: you need to scale down your photos and even then you would still be asked to crop it further.
There are basically three areas on Google+: Circles, Hangouts and Sparks. Hangouts allow you to have a video chat with up to 9 friends, while Sparks serves as an integrated RSS reader. These two features really do not have functionality problems.
Circles are another matter. Put simply, Circles is Google’s take on categorization. You have Circles wherein you could add your contacts. For instance, you could add your family members to the Family Circle, or you can add Moe, Larry and Curly to a circle you call Drinking Buddies, etc. You can create your own circles, and you can add people to more than one circle. This is a great way to sort out your contacts. Google certainly spent a lot of time making it pretty with animations and all the bells and whistles available.
The problem is that it could become too tedious for those who have a lot of contacts they need to add. Do you really want to go through a list of 50 or 200 or 500 contacts just to sort them out?
2. Where’s the APIs?
Of course, it is too early to tell for sure, but there seems to be no room for APIs in Google+. APIs allow other programmers to build applications for a certain platform, and is one of the things that made both Facebook and Twitter great.
Not only do APIs guarantee more applications for Google+ that would translate to more things to do on the site, but it would also mean that it would easily be available for other channels aside from desktops, more importantly in the form of tablet and mobile apps.
3. Google+ is the new kid.
Being the new kid on the block is not going to be easy. And when it comes to social networking, Google+ is a startup, even if it comes from Google. Facebook has trumped MySpace, Friendster and several other social networking giants because of its reach: almost everybody you know is on Facebook. On the other hand, there is almost nobody there on Google+.
As for other Google+ services, it is true that Google puts video conferencing, RSS and social media in one nifty package, but they are up against established companies who are focused in the same services.
Add to the fact that this is not Google’s first attempt to crack into the social sphere. Over the years, we have seen Google launch sites aimed at getting its foot into social media, such as Google Buzz, Google Social Search and more recently Google +1. Google’s social successes have been dismal, and we’re being generous with that assessment.
Google needs to improve user experience by making things simpler and easier for Google+ users. More than that, it also has to fine-tune the new features it has set out, while also taking a look at what have made other social networking sites thrive. Google certainly has the resources and the talent to make Google+ a Facebook killer, or at least a serious contender in the race for social media domination.
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