This all seems a little bit like déjà vu, doesn’t it? First there was Google Buzz, now Google+. What makes the search giant’s latest effort to take on Facebook any different?
If you remember, Google Buzz’s launch strategy was not very well planned. All of a sudden a link appeared on millions Gmail accounts, which instigated a massive outcry about privacy because Gmail users’ recent activity was being broadcast for anyone to see. In order to avoid this faux pas again, Google+ will start out as invite-only, much like the early days of Gmail. And, just like Gmail, Google+ has been dubbed a constantly evolving “project” instead of a polished “product.”
So what is that evolution going to look like? Google+ is intended to be more of a blanket approach with a navigation bar that appears no matter where you are in your logged-in Google experience. This provides an amplification of your favorite Google products using social functionality (yup, that’s where they are going with the “+” name). Google Search gets new social content discovery with Sparks, Google video chat gets a twist with a feature called Hangouts, and now your Google account gets a more robust, visual Profile.
Lastly, Google+ takes some of the features that we love about Facebook and provides some innovative improvements. Circles lets you easily create different communication groups of friends through easy drag-and-drop, which means no more over-sharing through Facebook posts. The mobile integration, something that Facebook has yet to truly capitalize on, looks incredible through features like Huddle, which lets you text a group of friends instantly.
In the end, the success of Google+ depends on whether or not consumers can truly get over the hurdle of trying yet another social channel. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that many of these features are embedded within existing Google products, but that doesn’t mean adoption will be easy. It will be crucial to evaluate how Google+ could hit different segments as it evolves – for example, what small business wouldn’t love to use Hangouts as an alternative to expensive webinar software? Also, something no one is really talking about is the ability of Google’s Android momentum to provide a crucial foothold for mobile/social adoption.
But enough of my rambles! What are your impressions of Google+? Will it be another disappointment or a true competitor to Facebook?