Nearly two months ago, Google released a social networking site with hopes of removing Facebook from their social networking throne: Google+. Since its release in late June, “G+” has impressed users and critics with flashy features and capabilities that don’t exist in Facebook. Google+ has also broken some records since its launch, including “fastest-growing site of all time.” But at over 25 million users, will Google+ eventually have what it takes to compete with Facebook’s 750 million users?
The Introduction of Circles
Although the general layout of Google+ is similar to Facebook’s, the networking site introduces features and concepts that separate it from its rivals. The main feature Google wanted to flaunt was “Circles,” which gives the ability to display posts to certain groups of people only. G+ forces users to categorize their friends into customizable Circles, such as “Friends,” “Family,” and “Former Co-workers.” When a G+ user creates a post, the user has the ability to choose which Circles can see their post. This is one major concept Facebook fails to support; when users posts information on Facebook, they do not have the option to hide their posts from any group of Facebook “friends.”
Some other neat tools introduced by G+ include “Hangouts,” “Huddles,” and “Sparks.” All of the Google+ features wow and entertain its users, but the introduction of Circles generally becomes the focal point when discussing the Google+ vs. Facebook dilemma. Many analysts and critics believe that Google+ won’t be unseating Facebook from its throne anytime soon, largely because of the massive number of people and businesses using Facebook as their stable social networking tool.
A Look in the Trenches
An article posted last month by a former Google software engineer reflects on the details and drama that occurred before the launch of Google+. The author explained how Paul Adams, a Google lead researcher, gave a presentation to the Google upper management about Facebook’s major flaw: “the social networks we’re creating online (with Facebook) don’t match the social networks we already have offline.” The presentation pointed out how Facebook is currently unable to support a system allowing users to show or hide posts, pictures, or information from certain groups of people. Adams eventually swayed Google management to organize a large development team to undertake the task of creating a social networking site that can better reflect the offline social networks we live in.
The following months became a fiasco of doubts, frustrations, rumors, and leaks between Google and Facebook while developing their fix for the “flaw.” Many developers within Google speculated that the new project wouldn’t launch successfully, while others heard rumors of Facebook secretly developing a new tool, possibly to support Adams’s thesis. Some Google employees, including Adams, even left the project and joined Facebook during the Google+ development. This was followed by Facebook launching “Facebook Groups,” which ultimately failed to address the points brought up in Adams’s presentation. Finally, Google+ launched, with Circles as its main feature, followed by positive feedback from the public and critics. The author, however, predicts that Google+ will never dethrone Facebook, largely because of Facebook’s strong establishment in the social networking market with over 750 milllion users. He instead foresees Google+ playing a role as a needed competitor to Facebook, winning over enough users to share a significant proportion of the social networking market. As a result, the author predicts “that when this game is done playing, there will be no more thrones.”
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