Google+

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Google+

If you haven't heard about it yet, Google+ looks intriguing. Google is throwing their considerable weight behind a Facebook killer and integrating it into the world's most widely-used search engine.

It also aims to improve privacy by allowing you to select which people you'd like to share information with: Friends, family or everyone. If that doesn't sound like a big deal, think about the last time you saw someone post party pictures on their Facebook page and get a stern warning from their mom / dad / grandma / religious aunt. Think of all the times that Facebook has changed privacy settings without letting anyone know ahead of time, revealing your private info to the outside world.

So, yeah, this is kind of a big deal.

Google is rolling this out piecemeal to get people used to the concept. However, it's hard to say if it'll catch on.

Consider: Facebook has 200 MILLION users. They've made their money on people who are not computer-savvy and get easily set in their ways. Most of these users don't know (or care) about their privacy. Most don't even know what Gmail is yet, and it's been out for 7 years. So, how are you going to get these people to switch over from Facebook to Google+?

One way is by a simple UI. Facebook succeeds, in large part, because anyone can take a look at it and understand how it works. In other words, it passes the "Grandma Test," or the fact that anyone's grandma can easily understand what they need to do to share and read messages.

Will Google be able to emulate that? All signs point to yes. Google is the master of the simple UI. They make it easy to search for images, web pages, anything. Social networking, however, is a bit of a different animal. You can't just copy Facebook's UI wholesale, so you have to create something kind of like Facebook's UI without aping it entirely.

Next, if no one is using your social networking site, then you lose both the "social" and "networking" portions of it. Then it's just a site. Google needs to build up word-of-mouth first of all and then hit with a massive advertising campaign playing up the simplicity of the service and the privacy of it.

Then, it's time for them to cross their fingers and pray like hell.

Either way, Google is betting the farm on this one. They've committed lots of money and lots talent to Google+. I can't wait to see how they intend to wrest the crown of internet superiority back from Facebook, and I can't wait to see what they come up with next.