The Social Side of College Admissions

Is Google+ a Facebook Killer?

July 19, 2011

The tech world (and major news outlets) has been aflutter with news regarding the launch of Google+, Google's latest attempt to chip away at Facebook's (and Twitter's) dominance in the social space. Some people are hailing the privacy controls afforded by the Circles feature as the silver bullet for Google+. Others are touting the Hangouts feature which lets you video chat with up to 10 friends at once.

Critics point to Google's failed efforts with Buzz and Wave and figure Google+ will likely be end up with a similar fate: Lots of hype, little impact.

Personally, I think the truth lies somewhere in between. First off, I don't see a mass exodus from Facebook.

Switching Costs Are High

Do we really think that someone who's built up a list of 500 friends, uploaded dozens of pictures, and posted hundreds of status updates is just going to dump that to start anew on Google+? Do you know anyone that has completely eschewed Facebook for Google+? It's not like switching your brand of toothpaste. You not only have to decide to switch, but you also need to convince your friends to switch.

Where's the Killer Feature?

I'm still waiting to see the killer feature from Google+, that one thing it so clearly does better than Facebook that I've been dying to have. A lot has been written about Circles, which allows you to categorize your connections. These Circles can then be used for targeting posts and viewing a subset of your stream. People seem to be missing the fact that this has been available on Facebook for a while in the form of friend lists. I will say that the Circles interface is much slicker than creating a friend list on Facebook and is much easier to find when targeting posts, but the real question is "Will people spend the time and effort to keep their Circles up to date?"... something they haven't seemed to do with friend lists (hence the roll-out of the updated Groups functionality). And is this enough to get people to switch?

Google+ Will Make Facebook Raise Their Game

While I'd be surprised if Google+ supplants Facebook as the dominant social network anytime soon, I do think Google+'s presence will force Facebook to raise its game. Google+ is the first alternative that people seem to deem as credible, and it has the resources behind it for continued improvements. A little competition for Facebook should benefit users, in the form of new features, improved privacy controls, and more. Facebook need only look at MySpace to find out what happens when you stop innovating and you focus primarily on monetizing your user base rather than serving them.

Google+ May Find a Different Niche

I think it might even be possible for Google+ to find its own niche in the world of social networking, just like Twitter has. For me, Facebook serves as a way to connect with people I know (i.e. I've actually met them in person and am, at the very least, acquaintances with them). And Twitter allows me to connect with a professional community, most of whom I have never met in person and probably never will. Clearly, Google has shown an aptitude for developing algorithmic solutions to sorting through information (the backbone of its search business). With more and more people broadcasting their thoughts and ideas, we probably need better ways to sort through the clutter for the gems. To be honest, I wonder if Twitter should be more worried about Google+ than Facebook.

Anyway, this is just my two cents. Do you agree or disagree? Has Google+ supplanted Facebook as your primary social network?

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