Google+, Google's ambitious project to redefine the future of social media, has created a huge buzz. Google+ has posed threat to different groups in numerous ways - it has attacked boldly on the present social network king Facebook, while China immediately blocked the access to Google+ with its great firewall, and Google's unpreparedness to face the massive influx of traffic has forced the beta version of Google+ to close its invitation door.
Google has a history of attempts and failures when it comes to rolling out social networking services. In 2004, Google's social networking site Orkut debuted and disappeared - with a minor popularity in Brazil and India. Open Social, launched in 2007 with the aim to create an open standard for social network applications, faded away as Facebook monopolized the spotlight. 2009 saw Google's struggles in the social-based communications system Wave and Buzz, both stirred the market but did not survive.
However, this time around, Google's timing for introducing a renewed experience in online social networking is impeccable. If 2008 saw Facebook's rapid growth beyond industry expectations, 2011 saw saturated markets like the U.S. and Canada growing hungry for something fresh.
Google+ v.s. Facebook
Indeed, Google+ seems to be a real rival of Facebook, containing the best of the social network giant while avoiding its worst.
Rather than constantly connecting with all of your friends (including some strangers who randomly friended you) like on Facebook, Google+ allows users to create groups through a feature called Circles, so they can select whom to communicate what, by choosing discrete groups of friends to send different updates. This way you can secure more privacy and more control, at which Facebook is largely reputed as sloppy and insensitive. With the new facial recognition, Facebook seems to be growing in its insensitivity. Instead, Google aims to offer a clean and organized realm of social networking.
Circles is an interesting feature. While Facebook does support the group function, Google Circles is a more intuitive approach and seems to mimic the way people work in their lives. Most tend to associate themselves with a group of people and certain environments, said tech analyst Charles King from Pund-IT.
The Google+ customizations are flexible, giving users freedom to share their location, content , and friends within Circles. Setting up Circles require simpler steps and less click with simple drag and drop options. The potential to integrate all of Google's website services such as Gmail, Picasa, YouTube, and Google Maps offer major advantages for Google+. A platform can be setup where functions can be consistent throughout the user's Google+ experience.
Circles, so far most favored by analysts and users, could be Google+'s biggest strength as it is the biggest problem with not only Facebook but with Twitter as well.
Other sparkling features in Google+ include Streams, Sparks and Hangouts.
And Google's got a wider heart - Google+ does not seek to be a stand-alone social networking service, like Facebook, but instead it is targeted at making everything Google social, capturing market share so that everywhere you go, Google can be with you, but will not trap you inside the service.
Through data liberation, Google allows you to pack up and take your data away from Google+ in case you decide to leave the service. In this aspect, Google+ is a stunning contrast to Facebook, which received countless complaints from users over how difficult it is to leave Facebook and take their data with them.
One aspect of Google+ may give Facebook serious chills. Once you sign into Google+, every single Google site you use gets a toolbar across the top with some new icons related to the service, noted Business Insider. A little notification window among the icons will turn red whenever someone adds you to the Circle or comments on your sharing. The little red button will continuously remind users to check the Google+ site. If 200 million Gmail users and 1 billion Google.com visitors sign into Google+, it will be not so far before Google+ overtakes Facebook in the number of users.
At the same time, the all-in-one model of Google+ may be too complicated for users.
Peter Pachal, in a blog post at PCMag, says, People want things easy, and Google Circles isn't easy. It puts the burden on users to take the time to think about each and every contact and put them in a specific bucket.
It's still a possibility that Google+ will be a repetition of Google's past failures in social networking services.
They're known for having some of the most intelligent brains behind what they do but their philosophy has always been algorithm is king. This is why Google is amazing at search. Algorithms are in their DNA. The problem they face with social network customers is that while Facebook's backend might run on algorithms, its customers and the social media culture don't, said Rich Harris in his Social Business blog at ZDNet.
China Banned Google+: Turns out to be False?
Whether Google is too late to catch up with Facebook, it has entered the family of web services that alert the great firewall of China, a censorship system that blocks a huge number of website which allegedly contain destabilizing content.
Fearing the consequences of opening the floodgates for the new social media, the Chinese communist regime has allegedly banned citizens from accessing Google+, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
However, reports from Chinese internet users and publications have revealed that the earlier reports were premature or outright false, since Google+ service is currently available in China according to those reports.
The earlier trouble in logging into its account stemmed from a technical flaw, according to The Shanghaiist website. The irregularity of speed probably has something to do with the fact that Google+ automatically routes you through an HTTPS secure connection, which has been known to cause problems the website stated.
The Chinese Government is yet to release any official statement on the alleged censoring of Google's new Google+ service.
If the Chinese government react sensitively to Google+, it is largely due to its concern over the power social networks wield in organizing anti-government protests.
China already blocks Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Foursquare.
Google Overwhelmed by Google+
The release of Google+'s beta version on June 28 showed the world that the renewed attempt by Google to shake the social networking market is at least buzz-worthy. Google just seems to be unable to control the overreaction of the users yet.
While the service is not yet bug free, and was by invitation only, thousands of reviews and articles were generated, as well as more demands for invites that resulted in invites sold on eBay.
Within 48 hours of Google+ beta release, the search engine giant has already shut down the invite mechanism. Insane demand. We need to do this carefully, and in a controlled way. Thank you all for your interest! said Google Senior Vice President of Engineering Vic Gundotra.
Gundotra did not indicate when the invite function would be put back up.
The number of people already invited and joined is also unknown.
The open invite that was permitted and then immediately closed may show how unprepared Google was for the explosion. It looks like they made a mistake. They didn't estimate how fast it would explode and a rapid influx of traffic, said Ezra Gottheil, analyst at TBR, Technology Business Research.
The most the company could say through a spokesperson was the invitation process will be opened and closed periodically as the company works on getting the network ready for its big public release.
The future buzz around Google+ is worth tuning into. Hopefully we will see a good match in its social media war against Facebook.