Google is the number one search engine. When they roll out algorithm updates, it shakes the SEO world and everyone scrambles to catch up. Adwords and Analytics are household names in the web industry, like how most disposable adhesive bandages are automatically referred to by the brand name Band Aid.
In the past, Google’s forays into the world of social media have been pretty un-spectacular. Now, however, they have started to release what may well be a game-changer. Google+ is a social networking application for PC or mobile that brings all of the best features of sites like Facebook and combines then with the Google innovation and resources. Tying in to their array of currently available services, this new product is currently available through invitation only. This makes it more desirable and allows the early-adapters to get the hang of it before it becomes widely used. It also allows Google to respond in real-time to any concerns from users. I found in my research a couple of places where users had made suggestions and replied a day or so later, thanking Google for actually responding – something many people have despaired of in regards to Facebook for ages. (Internet ages of course, something like several months or a year in the real world, I suppose.)
The down side to the invitation only releases of Google+ is that a social networking site can only get so far if only a fraction of your social network has it. If no one you know is no it, the only draw is the novelty – there is no practicality until it becomes more widely used. That same factor was probably the largest downfall of Google Wave, discussed in my previous post. Every network has to start out with only a few users, however. The bigger question is whether Google+ will be able to over take or co-exist with Facebook, as Facebook was able to do with MySpace. (In related news, I have heard rumors that Justin Timberlake recently was involved in a buy-out of MySpace, with plans to revamp it largely as a music sharing site.)
Some distinctive features of Google + include:
- Circles. Rather than a post going out to everyone you know and then some, you will be able to filter your posts and feeds by your social circles – work colleagues, family, friends from school, friends from *insert hobby here*, etc…
- Sparks. I haven’t used Google+ yet, but it sounds like this feature includes things you’re likely to be interested in in your stream without requiring that you go out and find it first. It also allows you to connect with others with similar interests.
- Hangouts. This features allows you to jump into a video conference when you feel like it, “stopping by,” effectively. This allows multiple users to swing in and out of video chats as they are available and smoothly shows all the webcams. Don’t have a webcam? Get one. Or get an awesome, rugged, portable laptop that comes standard with a great one built in.
- Mobile Upload. Google+ allows you to sign up for a service that automatically adds pictures to a private album in the cloud so that you can post them anytime any where without the hassle of uploading.