Google+ Where Do You Start With A Social Network?

13 July, 2011 06:58AM ยท 4 minute read

Social Networks have become ubiquitous of late with the success of Facebook and Twitter. Unlike computer software applications, getting people to consider an alternative social network is considerably harder. Not only do you need to convince existing users that there are new features that are really worth using on your new social network, but you also need to convince most of their friends, family and colleagues that it’s worth the switch. The years of momentum of bringing friends and family into Facebook may be difficult to overcome unless what you offer is substantially better than Facebook.

Why people like Facebook is a difficult thing to specifically nail down, however it seems to be more of an aggregation of smaller features bolstered by the games, applets and social games that the like of Zynga have made a fortune from - all the while pushing Facebook ahead of MySpace. Facebook as a messaging platform is relatively straight-forward however its biggest problem are its privacy settings and the confusion they cause. In more recent times there have also been malware applications that have spread through Facebook that have caused some annoyance but little major disruption to the service or its users. Still, the majority of users are quite happy with Facebook. It’s possible to easily post photos, videos, comments on your or other friends walls, play casual games and not be too overcome by advertising.

Why people like Twitter generally is its simplicity. Certainly the concept of Following someone elses comments is easy to grasp, however the service wasn’t well planned for the longest time and hasn’t been as organised as Facebook was. Until recently it wasn’t possible to natively post photos on the service and a myriad of third-party sites offered to do this for you. The 140 character limit (compared to Facebooks 420 character limit) per post can be annoying at times but it keeps it simple. The expression of Micro-blogging was formed essentially by Twitter. In more recent times Twitter has taken greater control and as such has its own native applications for most platforms and has also introduced advertising - albeit for the moment relatively minimal. Twitter solved the privacy issue by simply making accounts private or public. You can choose which you’d like, although picking up followers in a private account (if that is your goal in life) is more tedious. There are no games or applets to distract the user - just a steady stream of tweets from those you follow. Simple.

Google+ offers a blend of Facebook and Twitter. It offers a way to specify groups of friends (called circles) to which one may post or to post to everyone (public). A few other features such as Huddles are like a group chat on mobiles and hangouts that are just a multi-party video conference. There are no ads (yet - keeping in mind that Twitter started without ads as well) and also like Twitter - no games.

Google+ is not a Facebook competitor as much as it is a Twitter competitor. Its feature set is currently quite thin but covers all of Twitters functionality with a few minor extras thrown in. The burning question though is why do you need another social network? Twitter users will see a lot to like about Google+ - you can write messages as long as you like and restrict who the messages are seen by without making the whole account private. That said the interface takes some getting used to, although it is sound it is more complex than Twitter and that will turn some people off. Facebook users will not be attracted to it if they aren’t already attracted by Twitter. There is nothing that Google+ offers that Facebook doesn’t for the vast majority of people that use Facebook - in many ways it offers much less.

If Google can add social gaming into the Google+ platform then it may become a Facebook competitor but for the moment only Twitter should be concerned by Google+.