Think BR: Google+: A solution to a problem that doesn't exist?
The success of Google+ will not be determined by cynical media types, writes Sean Ramsay, digital account director, UM London.
Google+: a case of wait and see
Last week the Google+ project was released amid significant fanfare, with the majority of reports suggesting Google was now in direct competition with facebook.
Having had a week to play with the new toy, it’s not just Facebook between the sights.
There are three key areas of functionality here that borrow inspiration from a number of sources.
It’s true that a large part of the experience feels like Facebook, but there are also strong flavours of Twitter, Skype, LinkedIn, News Now, Reddit, Digg, YouTube, and even ChatRoulette.
Unsurprisingly, Google + also has full integration with a pretty credible search experience.
The circles mechanic is easy to use and the simplicity of placing connections into relevant circles (as opposed to creating facebook lists) is neat.
There’s even a list already created for acquaintances, just waiting for you to dump in the kid who sat next to you in year seven maths.
There is a nod to Twitter as you have the ability to follow users public posts without the requirement to connect directly.
These can then be filtered in and out of your news stream as you wish.
Ironically enough, the largest following at the moment belongs to a Mr Zuckerberg.
Hangouts are a new feature giving users an opportunity to virtually meet up with their pals via webcam.
If you’re at a loss for what to do once you’ve met up, Google handily suggest watching a YouTube video together. At the moment that’s pretty much it.
A direct shot across the bows of Skype or messenger services, its strongest asset is its ease of use.
The sparks feature is probably the least overwhelming of the three; ‘A feed of the things that you’re really into’, says Google.
As with the other two functions, it’s incredibly simple to use, with users entering their interests and in return being presented with a stream of recent content relating to that interest.
Disappointingly from a company whose empire was built on relevant results, the output is poor and you can only hope that a better release is yet to come.
So, taking all of this into account, what do we think?
Personally I'd have to say that while it's all very nice, at the moment it’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.
Are users actually looking for an alternative? Is there enough here to excite users enough to move or replicate their social graph into Google+?
Facebook, Twitter and Skype have become entrenched in people's lives for so long that migrating users across will be extremely hard, especially since communities such as Reddit and Digg remain the most fiercely loyal on the web.
It may be a lucky coincidence that Google + launches at around the same time that Facebook has suffered a newsworthy decline of users in the North America - it’s certainly the PR agency's dream.
However there is nothing to say that users left because of a lack of a viable alternative.
A social network is only as powerful as its members. At the moment Google has a nice product with impressive functionality, however all of that will go the same way as Wave or Buzz if no one turns up at the party.
That’s not to say that Google+ is doomed to failure; it’s a case of wait and see.
The success or failure of any online venture is not determined by cynical media types, rather the online population as a whole.
Anyone who wants to dismiss Google+ outright should probably have a chat about Facebook with a very lonely Tom over at MySpace.
Sean Ramsay, digital account director, UM London
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