Somebody posted a comment here today with this question, and whether Google+ would turn the company around or if it’d be a failure like Google Wave and Buzz.
I have to be honest, I never really understood why Google wanted to get into the social networking space. I can understand it makes Google nervous to have someone else around that might be as big or bigger than itself, but that’s going to be lots more companies in the coming future. Just because Google was early to the internet market and has enjoyed a relatively open playing field with very little real competition from direct competitors and other companies in general doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll lose its position. This includes even in the coming future where Google won’t be the only big player on the platform.
I can understand its scary to be the only hot guy in the room for a half decade and then suddenly find yourself among others like yourself. But, I don’t think Google needs to worry. Google just needs to do what Google does. That’s not just search (Google hasn’t been a solely a search player in a long time), but all the other things Google does. That has and can include ideas that flop, as long as Google keeps the position of being the arms dealer and not the fighter as it had traditionally always been.
But if Google wants to enter the social networking arena it certainly can. The social internet is never going to stay the same, really — at least not until the internet has completed what it’s here to do. And even then. That means that it can and will be disrupted as much as anything else — including not just by innovations but user behavior too. It’s beyond late to do social networking as we know it (ie, Twitter and Facebook formats) but it’s very early for doing lots of thing the ‘social’ internet is going to do and that opens up a nice gray area for a smart play if there might be one. In fact, it might be opportune — masses of internet users are now more than trained on using the internet as a communications platform. MySpace helped them cut their teeth, Facebook got them hooked, etc.
It actually makes it a great, fertile market for somebody to come along with an update to the experience, and yes that can include taking the marketshare too. Who would have thought tiny little Facebook would have ever taken the category from the-then giant MySpace? Case in point.
I have to say, and I tend to lean towards skeptical, I think Google+ could do it. Just the mere fact that it lets you control who gets to gain access to your connections once you’ve let them in is enough to make me never use Facebook and Twitter again, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear others say that too. A huge pet peeve of a lot of people I know in business is that there’s no stopping those people you meet randomly at drinks or an event that instantly find you on Twitter or Facebook, add you and start adding all your contacts too. I don’t necessarily want my mom and nephew to be mixed in with the people I do business with. It’s seen as a social (network) faux pas but a lot of people do it. That you can then group people into subgroups and control what everybody sees is just genius.
Google was wise to make it feel familiar to what the bulk of social network users will find familiar, and I’m sure that within a short time there’ll be lots of games, apps, etc. Should Facebook be afraid? Maybe. It’ll depend how quickly it can deploy the same features versus how fast Google take its users. As for Twitter, why and how people use it is a bit different, but it might be a nice time to cash out to Google.