Google+: The new Facebook rival?

 
Screenshot of Google+ Google+ for now has a limited release

Unlike the launch for Google Buzz, Google+, the company's most aggressive attack on Facebook's domination in the world of social networking, was unveiled with little fanfare and little fuss.

Back in early 2010 the fourth estate came out in force to hear all about Buzz, the search giant's big social play at the time.

Proof that the company thought so highly of this product was evidenced by the fact that Google co-founder Sergey Brin took part in the press conference.

Buzz had all the right ingredients of a socially engineered product but failed because of serious stumbles around privacy.

Earlier this year Google reached a settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission to resolve concerns the company violated its own privacy policies through Buzz.

This time around for Google+ which was code named Emerald Sea, there was no press conference, no big press reveal and no execs trumpeting its arrival.

The emergence of Google+ was more or less heralded with a simple blog post by Vic Gundotra, senior vice president of engineering at Google and the man who has been in stealth mode for over a year leading the company's social play.

New features

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All that information that Facebook's 500m users are sharing is locked behind Facebook's wall out of the reach of Google's spiders and search smarts”

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But make no mistake, the lack of ceremony surrounding the arrival of Google+ does not take away from the fact that this is Google's most serious and concerted effort to try to nail social.

It is also its most ambitious attempt to answer Facebook without copying what it does. To simply do that would have been a recipe for disaster.

At the core of Google+ is a feature called Circles which is aimed at making it easier to organise friends, family members and others into smaller, easier to manage and more intimate groups as opposed to everyone you know.

The product will also draw on Gmail to work out who you might like to invite into the circle.

With more than 500 million users Facebook is a growing threat to Google, its bottom line and how users will continue to search. Right now Google can lay claim to over 65% of the search market in the US according to research firm comScore.

But as users rely more and more on friends and their social graph for recommendations, Facebook is in the right place to cash in.

Old rivals

The reasoning goes that who would you trust for a recommendation for a hairdresser/restaurant/gym more? Your friends on Facebook or Google's search engine?

Screenshot of Facebook Facebook dominates the world of social networking

The fact that Google and Facebook don't play nice in the sandbox adds to the drama of the situation. Remember earlier this year that Facebook was caught using a PR firm to plant unflattering stories about Google.

Proof of the enmity between these two technology giants is clear in Mr Gundotra's blog post when he refers to social networking as being "sloppy, scary and insensitive" and maintains that the "problem is that today's online services turn friendship into fast food - wrapping everyone in 'friend' paper."

Ouch!

Remember all that information that Facebook's 500m users are sharing is locked behind Facebook's wall out of the reach of Google's spiders and search smarts.

Over the last couple of years Facebook has grown into a social networking behemoth.

In May 180 million people visited Google sites including YouTube compared to 157.2 million on Facebook, according to comScore.

When it comes to user engagement Facebook is in the clear lead.

Users looked at 103 billion pages and spent an average of 375 minutes on the site compared to Google's 46.3 billion pages where users spent 231 minutes.

These are figures that advertisers pay close attention to.

Earlier this year, Google's then CEO and now chairman Eric Schmidt admitted he "screwed up" in the area of social networking.

"I clearly knew I had to do something and I failed to do it," he said.

Since co-founder Larry Page resumed the role of CEO back in April he put the company on notice and told employees that future bonuses would be tied to the success of Google's social strategy.

In a memo that he sent out at the time, Mr Page said "we all have a stake in the success of this effort".

Google is playing it canny by only releasing the product via invite to a limited set of users before being gradually opened up to the general public.

That way they can react quickly to feedback and implement changes quickly without upsetting a lot of users.

Analysts are divided about how successful Google+ will be but Charlene Li of the Altimeter Group said Facebook has to be worried nonetheless.

"The biggest risk group inside Facebook are people like me who are marginal users, in their 40's and someone who does not have all their friends on Facebook. Facebook is a toss up for me. My entire social graph isn't using Facebook so that is up for grabs and if Google+ does a good job for people like me, that is where I will go.

"It will be an interesting battle ahead. And for Google to be successful it doesn't have to beat Facebook, it just needs to get enough people in these circles to spend time there to make a dent on what Facebook does."

The ironic thing about the timing of the launch Google+ is that is enters stage left as a former darling of the social networking world watches the curtain slowly come down on its present.

Later today it is expected that MySpace will announce a number of lay offs along with the news that it will be sold for around $30m, a far cry from the $580m that Rupert Murdoch paid in 2005 for what was then the world's biggest social network.

For now that title belongs to Facebook.

 
Maggie Shiels Article written by Maggie Shiels Maggie Shiels Silicon Valley reporter

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 33.

    Vic Gundotra, senior VP of social for Google, apologised: For about 80 minutes we ran out of disk space on the service that keeps track of notifications. Hence our system continued to try sending notifications. Over, and over again! We didn't expect to hit these high thresholds so quickly, but we should have. You wouldn't expect Google to run into simple problems like disc space.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 32.

    Google+ spammed early entries to social networking service over weekend following a technical glitch. Problem: service ran out of disk space. The spam messages carried characteristics of those generated as regular nuisance on Facebook over recent months. In reality, however, the messages were the product of bugs in Google+ code, which kicked in because of early demand.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 31.

    I'm so apathetic on this article that I ca

  • rate this
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    Comment number 30.

    So advertisers will pay attention that lots of visits are made by people to their friends website to chat. But apparently little to the opportunities available when people are actively looking for something? It would be like a car salesman thinking there more in interrupting my conversation with my girlfriend than making the forecourt look interesting.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 29.

    Lawsuits flying. What's going on?
    - Google, GroupMe & Twilio being Sued For Spam
    - wire tapping against Google because network is not encrypted
    - $423M Lawsuit from French Company which hosts various search engines. Google Being Sued by 1plusV‎
    - Google Faces New Antitrust Challenge in France
    - Google, Partners Sued for Potential Chromebook Name Violation...‎

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 28.

    Nice article Maggie.
    I suspect Google aren't too worried about loss of ad revenue just yet. Ads in Google are frequently relevant to what I'm looking for and I sometimes even use them. Facebook on the rare occasions I view pages in a format where adverts appear (the majority of my page views are on an ad free phone screen) usually offers me weight loss pills that I don't need.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 27.

    Many people commenting here seem to miss the point that Wave, Buzz etc. were basically experiments on the way to creating Google+.

    Personally I will give it a go when it is open to all as how do I know if I prefer it to Facebook if I don't try it.

    Neither the tech nor the reviewers will decide whether it is a success, it is a battle of hearts and minds!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 26.

    What Facebook has that Google + does not is the tremendous advantage of being the social home base for most users; most everyone is reluctant to take the time & effort to create another profile, another set of connections, another destination to frequent...So Google + must find a way to shake people out of the old Facebook habit. I don't think (right now) there's enough shaking going on!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 25.

    There are only subtle differences between Google + and Facebook. It's also a bit more tricky to use than Facebook. Curating Circles may prove challenging for some users accustomed to Facebook. Google has taken care to give users more control over social circles, but you have to link private Gmail address to Google+ so how to stop people from adding you to circles?



  • rate this
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    Comment number 24.

    Google+ can be competition to social software world, though at present time, it just doesn't have sufficient features to successfully compete for users' attention. Also, Google + is relatively untested.
    Google+ sort of sameness to Facebook may be a curse at a time when it needs to show a REALLY SIGNIFICANT to 700 million-plus social-site users.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 23.

    I don't trust Facebook. Its not that I fear my details will be abused accidentally. It is the deliberate way Facebook stops me from protecting myself because it is in their interests that I do not.

    A lot of people feel the same way, Google+ will/should capitalise on this.

    Hangout is also very teen friendly and could be a killer app for the younger generation.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 22.

    Opening up Google+ to developers will enable add-ons & improvements from 3rd-party access apps - like Tweetdeck for Twitter, to Zynga-like games that access the Google social graph; etc.
    I’d like to see faster work of managing & sorting contacts into circles. This however does not seem to be primary objective; so if not, what is? Do we really know at this point what we're getting into?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 21.

    Features/functions Google+ will change substantially & quickly + increased integration with other Google apps. Google’s new social network, Google+, has only been public for days, & developers already want access. Vic Gundortra, Sr. VP of social for Google: said that he is a DEVELOPER guy at the core. It's inconceivable he would build something without a platform.


  • rate this
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    Comment number 20.

    Vic Gundotra, Sr VP, Eng. (aka Google's social czar) comes with general managerial experience from Microsoft. He was manager of Platform Evangelism = social influence to accelerate diffusion of innovation, presence of network effects, for economic gain.
    It's not surprising that Google+ launched without developer access. The service is incomplete. Gundortra: We’re just getting started...

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 19.

    People who think that Facebook is too integrated have very short memories. There wasn't a mass exodus from MySpace (or any other social network). It was a slow migration.

    Aside from being invitation only the barrier to entry for Google+ is very low. A lot of people already have Google accounts, the signup process is very slick and easy.

    The Google+ experience is good too. It's clean and fast.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 18.

    Google are not to be trusted. They already know far too much about us and I for one don't trust them with any more information. ...apart from a few emails here and there, which I don't really care about.

    Facebook actually does the job very well, I don't think there's any need for another social network. Google aren't really "cool" anymore are they? they're too much of a(n evil) corporation.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 17.

    I know a lot of people starting to get fed up with Facebook. The whole social networking concept isn't as exciting or amazing as it was maybe a few years back. I feel this is important because it means people will not put up with hassle, i.e. annoying ads and security mishaps. Meaning an evening out of the spoils could be on the cards.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 16.

    People are leaving facebook, mainly due to privacy concerns and being annoyed by marketing through system, I said long ago, facebook needs to focus on what it has, a login platform, like addresses are to the post office, and make the most of it....

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 15.

    "Google is playing it canny by only releasing the product via invite to a limited set of users before being gradually opened up to the general public."

    Maggie, is that safe or just smart? FB did the same, over a long period, to build a "need".. Prior to opening registration to the planet.

    The world did not need a FB, FB needed the world..

    FB has now created a need which it is not fulfilling

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 14.

    There doesn't appear to be too much confidence in Google+ winning over entrenched Facebook users like myself. To use Niall Ferguson's term, + has 'killer apps' which Facebook once owned over Myspace and bleed Myspace users dry over a long period of time. I reckon Google+ will do the same, if not on the same scale or as quickly and, as pointed out, does it need to be no.1, just perform well.

 

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