Google’s long awaited answer to Facebook and social networking is finally here and it’s called Google+. Is it everything that we wanted? Is it any different from Facebook?
Social networking isn’t what it used to be. What was once an activity almost exclusively reserved for lonely high school students living in their parent’s basements, has, since the success of Facebook, become a notable part of the average person’s life.
It’s been hardly a secret that Google has long wanted to capitalize on the booming market for social media and networking. The question was not “if” but “when” would Google offer an alternative to sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Well, this week Google launched a limited version of Google Plus, their answer to social networking.
Google Plus is a quintessential Google product. Built off of the already existing accounts system, Google Plus converts what it already knows about you into a full fledged profile. All you have to do is fill in the blanks about yourself and you are good to go.
For most of us, the setup is nothing new. We’ve all created Facebook accounts, we know the drill. Where do you live, what do you do, what are your interests, etc. Pretty standard fare.
In this regard Google Plus is actually eerily similar to Facebook. Instead of a news feed, you have a stream which notifies you of your friends’ recent activity. Instead of a Facebook photo gallery, Google Plus integrates with Picassa. Everything that Facebook offered you is there in Google Plus, albeit with that simplistic toned-down feeling that all of Google’s products give you.
The real differences lie in the ways that Google Plus integrates with Google’s search engine. As long as you are signed in to your Google account, anytime you use Google’s search engine you are given the option to +1 certain search results. Doing this notifies all of your contacts in a few ways.
First, it affects their own search results, giving some precedence to sites you’ve +1’d if they happen to be searching for the same thing.
Second, it displays your activity in your stream, as well as your own +1’s tab, so your friends can see which sites, images or other search results you’ve recently visited and enjoyed.
As well, you can also change your settings so that your +1s are available for anyone with a Google account to see, though I would think that doing so would raise some curious privacy issues.
While everything about Google Plus seems functional and competent, even at its current limited stage, one can’t help but notice that it isn’t all that original.
The ability to +1 sites is a nifty and fun feature, though it essentially a mix between Facebook’s “likes” and standard bookmarking. Social bookmarking perhaps? As well, everything else that it does was already done by Facebook. Do we really need a second social media site that works almost exactly the same as the other?
I suppose if you are one of those people, and I might be one, who are fed up with Facebook then Google Plus is a fair alternative, though we will have to wait and see if it manages to attract a large enough audience to remain relevant.