How can Google+ win?

I’ve had a few days to kick the tires on Google+ (pronounced ‘Google Plus’), Google’s shot across the bow of Facebook and, to a lesser degree, Twitter. It’s a nascent social network built around the concept of ‘circles’, where you group friends and acquaintances into clusters so that your online social interactions are more distinguishable than in other tools.

For a primer, read Stephen Levy’s long piece in Wired on Google+. Chris Brogan also wrote a good post full of early observation and speculation, as did Steve Gillmor.

Google hasn’t had a great track record in software products in recent years. Sure, Chrome has been a massive success, but Knol, Wave and Buzz all failed to cross that trough of disillusionment after a flurry of early excitement.

Will Google+ make that leap? It faces the tremendous inertia of Facebook, whose more 600 million have invested serious time and effort in their profiles. That feels like a nearly insurmountable obstacle.

That said, let’s look at some of the possible reasons why they might:

  1. Users get bored with tools and platforms. We saw it happen when Facebook eclipsed MySpace, and when Gmail eclipsed Hotmail.
  2. I haven’t tried it yet, but maybe there’s a sweet spot for Google+ Hangouts, group video chat sessions. On the other hand, there are rumours afoot of a Facebook partnership with Skype which might quash this competitive advantage.
  3. Users might start seriously caring about privacy, and they trust Google more than they trust Facebook.
  4. Google+ is being integrated into all of Google’s products. If you’ve got a Google Account–for Gmail, Google Reader, Docs and so forth–then you’ll see the ‘Sandbar’, the black bar at the top of our Google apps. Much like Facebook, there’s a red notification number on this bar that will constantly be reminding you of Google+ activity. Google has an enormous existing user base, and they’re not going anywhere, so this ever-present hook into the user may be the difference-maker.
  5. Of those four, I think only the last reason has serious merit. Why do you think Google+ could win?


  1. I think the early adopters of social media are feeling exhausted from the firehose. Google+ easily allows us to fit different sets of contacts into “circles”.

    The circles feature is key to helping us manage the flow of information and to better our skills at keeping connected to those who matter most to us.

    Dunbar was right.

    Facebook groups just doesn’t work well. Twitter lists are too difficult to keep up to date and organized.

    What do you think Darren?

  2. So far, I’m pretty impressed with the initial features of Google+.

    A few things took a while to figure out, like making a message only show up for one person ( ie, like writing on someone’s wall in Facebook ).

    I’m curious to see what features they roll out over the next few months. Part of me wants to quit using Facebook ( not delete my profile, just not use it ) for a month, and see if I notice any big differences.

  3. Google+ will win because it is designed to take social networking into the Enterprise. What do you think googlers have been using internally for the past 6 months?

    This is a first step. Notice how if you are a google apps user you can’t use google+. That will change next and their will be a whole seperate way to use Google+ inside organisations and across organisations.

    Google+ is social networking privacy and identity done right.

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