Is Google+ both a Facebook Killer and a LinkedIn Killer?
We’ve been playing with Google+ for the past couple of days and it does indeed have a lot going for it…
- Usability – The interface is very easy to use.
- Circles – Google+ allows you to segment your friends, family and other contacts into “circles” so that you can interact with them separately.
- Hangouts – This is video chat done properly, with support for up to 10 people at once and automatic switching of the main video window to show whoever’s talking.
- Huddles – Send group texts to your “circles”
OK, those are some cool new features (here’s a full product review at Mashable), but Google+ will only flourish if these improvement are enough to move a large proportion of people over from Facebook. That’s a big “if”. Because let’s face it, no matter how much better it may be, you will not continue to use Google+ if your friends don’t move over (the real value in Facebook is not the platform, but your friends–this is known as the “network effect”).
Yes, there are quite a few people who are fed up at Facebook’s disregard for their privacy concerns and will definitely make the move the first chance they get. But if the majority of your friends stay on Facebook, will you really be able to move to Goolge+? So it really all depends if Google+ can provide enough reasons to move over to overcome the network effect.
Some believe that public sentiment is so far in Google’s favor that they just have to build a competitive product and people will make the jump. While others believe that Google is a company focused on building algorithmic based technologies and has never built social products particularly well (as evidenced by Orkut, Buzz and Wave) and will inevitably make a misstep with Google+. Who will win? Only time will tell (sorry, this one is too close to call). But whatever does happen, this will be a very interesting battle between two internet heavyweights.
Isn’t there room for both? Likely not (just as there wasn’t room for both Facebook and MySpace). If Google+ does gain traction, the network effect will work in the other direction and the rest will follow their friends over to Google+, so this is probably an all or nothing battle.
Finally, if Google+ wins out or Facebook does and properly implements groups functionality in a similar way to Google+’s circles, then LinkedIn may be the next casualty as you won’t need to keep your business contacts in a separate social network when they can be easily separated and interacted with through either Google+ or Facebook. Sorry to those who just bought stock in their recent IPO, but LinkedIn could end up being an unexpected casualty in this battle as well.