Google+: What’s it all about?

Jun. 29, 2011 | by Georgie Wright

You can update your status, check-in, share photos, images and video across groups of friends and family. It may sound suspiciously like Facebook, it isn’t. It’s Google’s new project, Google+ (Google Plus). Whilst it isn’t available to everyone yet and is currently in ‘field trial’ mode at present, it’s all over the web after the Google launch late last night so we wanted to provide a quick break down as to what Google+ is and what it means to you.

What is it?

As mentioned above, Google+ is Google’s move towards making them social as a product, rather than a break free, standalone social network as in Facebook’s case. When Search Engine Land’s, Danny Sullivan, asked Google if this was developed as a direct competitor to Facebook their response, although well briefed, does sound somewhat like a new kid on the Facebook block.

‘No. We realize that today people are increasingly connecting with one another on the web. But the ways in which we connect online are limited and don’t mimic our real-life relationships. The Google+ project is our attempt to make online sharing even better. We aren’t trying to replace what’s currently available, we just want to introduce a new way to connect online with the people that matter to you.’

A quick overview of the functions of Google+ are below;

  • Google+ Circles: Launched as a network for your friends, Google+ Circles are at the heart of the project allowing you to easily arrange social contacts for convenience when sharing. These contacts do not have to necessarily be signed up to Google+ but can be contacted via email which may prove to be a negative or positive aspect in the long run. The drag and drop function does offer a direct benefit over Facebook’s lists and group options as it makes it so much easier to create a Circle. Further benefits as to the improved usability and user experience of Circles against Facebook’s listing and grouping offerings can be seen in ex-Google UX team member, Paul Adams’, presentation looking at ‘The Real Life Social Network’ . Interestingly Adams now works for Facebook.
  • Google+ Stream: a stream is similar to your Facebook newsfeed offering an area where you can share your status, links, images or video. The difference is that you will have two spaces from which to share, the status update style share in the Stream itself and then the share options in the new black ‘One Google’ bar so that you can instantly share no matter where you are in Google.
  • Google Sparks: Sparks lets you easily follow specific topics of interest for you whether from recommended suggestions or through keyword-based searches.
  • Hangouts: Hangouts is potentially one of the best features of Google+, a group video chat function that lets groups of up to 10 interact through video at one time. Videos can be played and there is even the ability to record the video conversation.
  • Huddle: Building on from the Hangouts function, Huddle is a group text chat service. Whilst information for this service is somewhat limited at the moment, we will be sure to keep you up-to-date with developments from Google’s Mobile developments.
  • Instant Upload: An Android phone compatible function that allows you to upload a photo or video to a centralised, private, photo album.

Google+ vs. Facebook: The Differences

The major functional benefits that stand out from Google+ is not only the ease of creating a Circle to easily share data to relevant social contacts, but also the video function available through Hangout.

Importantly contacts in Google+ are simply an email address with no social information connected to them and limited networking benefits between friends of friends or mutual contacts. There may be appeal to those wanting an alternative to Facebook’s monopoly however, those happy with Facebook’s networking capabilities may have limited incentive to change.

Finally, it is also worth mentioning that Google+’s success is potentially limited by people actually being signed into Google. With Facebook users are commonly also logged in to receive up-to-date developments in their networks be it via desktop or mobile. Unless Google+ provides users with a reason to be logged in they may receive limited success.

What it means to you?

At this time, whilst Google+ is in ‘field trail mode’, we are at too early a stage to understand the full impact of the new social sharing project. Gut feeling is that if people are happy to use Facebook, why would they change? The two stand out benefits of Google+, Circles and Hangout, could potentially be replicated and integrated into the Facebook platform, and probably will be if deemed successful.

What to do next

We will be watching with interest over the next few months as to the feedback from the ‘field test’, announcements from Huddle, reactions from Facebook and eventual launch of Google+. At present the project is only available on an invitation only basis. A launch date is yet to be shared. We will be sure to keep you up to date as to whether this dubbed ‘Facebook Competitor’ will require strategic changes to your digital strategies.

Please do not hesitate to contact your account manager should you require further information about Google+.

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    Comments (2)

    • gwright

      Whilst I don't think that Facebook will be shaking at present, I do think that they will be watching with interest at the developments around Google+. That said, I'm one of those people who has Facebook open on a tab constantly, it's my first port of call to arrange a social event with my friends and it's how I often keep in touch with my wider network. Google+ would have to be pretty special for me to look to change my 400 plus contacts to a new which they may not be members. I know that contacts do not have to be signed up to Google+ but the ease of all of your contacts in one place to view profils easily and the ability to segregate them as required, i.e. the benefits of Circles available at a tiny bit more effort in groups and lists - still appeals too me. With everyone in one place why would you go else where? We're all aware of the shock proclaimed when it is discovered that "You aren't on Facebook?" <- The Horror!

      I do think that there will be people that this appeals to and we shouldn't disregard already but it is the number of people ready to jump ship for interactive video and drag and drop friends. I think it will be interesting for Android users and you may see some converts there but with 700 million on Facebook Google has a tough job ahead of proving +'s USP and reason to move.

      The demand for trial places seems to be booming so I will watch with interest over the next few months. We'll be sure to keep you updated with the latest developments.Jun 30, 2011 05:13 pm

    • Imran

      Well, by now we all know Google and how discrete they are...not shaking FB in my view. Bit too late as early mover advantage stays with FB in my view.

      New functionality on offer by Google will be obsolete tomorrow if not day after...

      Thoughts?Jun 30, 2011 03:08 pm

    Please note: the opinions expressed in this post represent the views of the individual, not necessarily those of iCrossing.

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