Over the past two weeks as I’ve had a chance to play around with Google+ and really had a great experience. Who knew Google could do social and do it so well? Guess they learned from the Buzz/Wave disasters and seem to be on to something this time.
Unfortunately probably the most important ingredient to having a great experience with a social network is the ability to find and connect with the people you want to interact with. As a result, I’ve spent two weeks now struggling to get friends and family to setup their own Google+ accounts and was met with a surprising amount of resistance. “Why not just stick with Facebook” they ask? “Where is the value?” “Where is my Farmville and other games?” When I stepped back to look at it from the average person’s perspective I can see their point, why should someone bother setting up a Google+ account?
Why Switch From Facebook to Google+?
First and foremost, I need to point out that you don’t need to “switch” to Google+ unless you want to. Signing up for Google+ doesn’t do or change anything with your Facebook profile so there really is no down side. Secondly, Facebook needs competition and Google is one of only a couple of companies (if not the only one) who could seriously compete with Facebook. Competition brings innovation and their are plenty of examples out there of situations where there wasn’t competition and as a result there wasn’t innovation (Internet Explorer 6 jumps to mind). Besides, the more successful the initial launch of Google+ is, the more likely Google is to continue to place their valuable engineer resources into improving this product and making it a true competitor to Facebook.
Am I pro Google+ or just anti-Facebook?
This is something I’ve put a lot of thought into over the past two weeks and I’ve come to the conclusion that it is a little bit of both. I truly love the innovation put into Google+ with the hangouts, circles, and even the sparks feature has some potential. With that said, I admit to being more scared of where the Internet is heading with the growing dominance of Facebook and I think the internet needs to support a competitor.
Some older readers may remember back in the 1990’s when a young internet was just trying to figure itself out and most users thought the internet was the walled garden known as America Online (AOL). I remember asking people about the internet and they mostly thought AOL.com was the internet, not knowing that much if anything resided outside of that domain. It was social and AOL had control over everything with no real competition. Fortunately over time AOL made some bad business decisions and technology and innovation exploded freeing us of AOL’s control. Now Facebook has made it clear that they want similar control and I see people just handing it over to them blindly.
Facebook – The Walled Garden
As Facebook has grown they’ve made it very clear that they want to be the one-stop shop for your internet experience. They’ve got games, they’ve got coupons/deals, they’ve got Skype integration now, they’ve got Facebook email and chat, and are rumored to be announcing a Facebook music and video streaming service. Eventually if they have their way you won’t ever leave Facebook.com, which would effectively make them the internet for most people. Want to setup a blog? Make a Facebook blog. Want to promote your business? Don’t use the yellow pages, use Facebook’s service. Want people to see your content? Don’t place it on your domain where you can control it because no one will see it, place it on your Facebook wall so it is seen and Facebook search can add it to their search results.
In fact, it is scary to think that Facebook wields so much power that Zynga was built entirely upon the Facebook platform and was recently valued in the billions. If Facebook crashed they’d instantly be worth nothing. That is power folks. Zynga has zero control over their own value because they are dependent on Facebook to operate.
What Makes Google+ Better than Facebook?
“What makes Google+ any better than Facebook?” Great question and one that needs to be looked at. Ideally you want at least two extremely popular services so no one has a monopoly. In its current state there is no doubt that Facebook is a better product as that is where the people you want to connect with currently are. But over time if people support it Google+ can be just as good or better, and Google+ would be better for the world as Google support openness and gives users control over their own data.
Think about it. Facebook is trying to control everything by creating a gated community around you while Google just wants you to use the internet. Want proof? How does Google makes its money? All their services are basically free because they make their money through search. The more people get online, the more money Google makes. Google doesn’t want control over you, they just want you to be online.
So What Can I Do?
I’m not asking much, just try Google+. It is currently invite only but at last check they already have 18 million users so chances are you know people that can get you an invite. Try the service out now and check back in occasionally to see what they’ve added. Setup your Facebook updates to also show up in Google+. If you are a smartphone owner download their app (iPhone and Android currently available if not more).
Lastly encourage others you know to join as well. Even if they aren’t actively using it, having their account setup helps them to connect with those they care about. Google Games is coming (maybe giving Zynga a chance to diversify?) and their API will be available soon, allowing developers to continue to grow and improve the user experience. Supporting Google+, or really any competition now, should have a long term benefit for us all.
Have thoughts? Please leave a comment below.