Is Google+ the Next Big Thing in Social Communities? Will you login to Google+?

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Several days ago, Google launched Google+, a new social networking website and its latest effort to compete with Facebook. This is not their first foray into that space – Orkut, Google Buzz, and Jaiku have all at least touched on this arena.

Just as it did with GMail, Orkut, and a number of its other offerings, Google is using the “invitation-only” method for the initial phase of the site. Despite this model, interest in the service drastically exceeded Google’s expectations forcing the company to shut down invitations and signups shortly after the launch.

Some of the features of Google+ include: (scroll down for selected screenshots):

  • The home screen is called the “stream”, which displays recent content from friends, similar to Facebook.
  • In something of a mixed metaphor, the “stream” can be filtered by circles, or, categories of contacts, including the “following” circle, which is similar to the Twitter concept where “following” is not necessarily mutual.
  • In a “hangout”, multiple users can share a video chat session.
  • Google+ offers a mobile app for the Android (an iPhone app is listed as “coming soon”) that looks and behaves very similarly to the mobile app for Facebook.
  • One slightly scary feature of the mobile app is the “instant upload” feature. If this feature is turned on (which is the default), then all photos taken with the phone’s camera are instantly uploaded to a private album in your Google Plus account. This seems to just be asking for trouble, especially for members of the United States Congress.
  • The home screen introduces a new Google feature called “Sparks”, which are essentially a “stored search” to Google news and blog entries for popular and user-customizable topics.
  • Google+ users see a +1 button in their Google search results, allowing them to publicly “like” search results.

In 2005, MySpace was bought for $580 million by News Corp. In 2006, it became the most popular social networking site, but in 2008 was overtaken by Facebook. Though Facebook is in no danger of losing its pole position any time soon, according to at least one source, Facebook’s traffic has fallen slightly in recent months.

Will Google+ do to Facebook what Facebook did to MySpace? That is the $2 billion question. Google+ has at least two distinct advantages:

  • Instant and seamless integration with Google’s numerous other offerings. Do not underestimate the importance of this. For example, a small but growing number of colleges and universities now use Google Apps for their student email accounts. So just by being a student and one of these schools, you will instantly have a Google+ account just waiting for you to click the “ok” button.
  • The time to start over factor. Google+ offers the young 20-something who has littered their Facebook account with photos of various kinds of debauchery the chance to start a new online life.

What Google+ is lacking right now (but presumably will have very quickly) is the developer API. It’s coming and when it does come, the Facebook – Google+ battle could get interesting.

If you weren’t among the lucky few to get one of the Google+ accounts while they were available, check out these screenshots.

Selected Screenshots

The Google+ home page, or, “stream”

Representation of Google+ Circles

Google+ Sparks

Google+ and Facebook Mobile menus

Google+ and Facebook Mobile news feeds

+1 Button in Google Search Results

Let us know in your comments what you think about Google+ and whether you think you will use Google+, Facebook, or Twitter the most!

image credit: tinpalace

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