Note: This article isn’t a Google Plus tutorial, instead we will try to analyze the features and will compare them with other social networks.
For basic tips and usage details, please check our this article: Google Plus: Basic Tips for Beginners
Do you remember the time when Orkut was invite only, everything you did there was open to everyone and everyone was happy & excited.
Time changed, came Facebook – I remember telling everyone to join Facebook and they were reluctant, they didn’t care then. Slowly it gained grounds and up till now was considered as the only Elephant in the room.
When everyone thought that there is no more space for anyone in this room (especially considering the Facebook’s enormous growth), Google came in with Google Plus.
So, what is Google+?
The image says it right, Google+ is Facebook [period]. It is what many of us always wanted Facebook to be.
What looks like Google did here is this: you have Orkut, Wave (old story now), Buzz, +1, Gmail, Docs, Picasa Albums, Groups, Youtube, GTalk & Search.
You competitor in the social market had 700 Million plus following, Photo & Video Sharing, Chat, Groups & Fan Pages. Google looked into what led to their failure with the previous experiments and what led to their competitor’s success and then built a product on the competitor’s weaknesses combined with its own strengths.
For example you get tighter privacy control (Facebook’s weakness), Video Chat simultaneously with up to 10 people (GTalk, Google’s strength – Facebook chat is no where near to this) with this you get Sparks (Google Search) also integration of Google+ with other Google services.
Not to mention, Facebook has announced in-browser video conference feature coming to their platform next week, but this is a start of head to head battle between the giants.
Let’s get back to basics – you get a Wall (Stream), Groups (Circles), Photo Albums, a Profile & Chat (more on this is here & here). Now let’s explore what sets it apart.
This s a typical Facebook News Feed & and a typical Google+ Stream. They look quite the same but things get different when it comes to handling these posts/your data.
In Facebook what you can do with a post is: delete it or report it and that’s it. With Google+ you can do much more, have a look below:
You can Edit your posts & comments, Delete them, Disable the comments and Disable re-sharing it. The ‘Limited’ next to the time of post shows the type of the post (If it’s public, private or limited).
One post in above given snapshot is ‘public’ and I can Link to it, Report it, Block the person or Mute it (stop updates regarding this post – notifications).
On the left side of your Home screen (below Notifications) you get the usual Gmail Chat the one you have in Gmail. It is much much better than Facebook Chat, in almost every aspect. You can video chat with your Gmail contacts even if they are not on Google+.
Go to your Photos and it’s your typical Albums, friend’s pictures and stuff. The controls are almost the same way as with the posts, you decide which picture is to be shared with whom.
The improvement, so the improvement is Instant Upload. If you have the Google+ client (i.e. Android app) installed on your phone you can upload photos from your phone directly to your albums online right from the photos section on Google+ (basically your photos are uploaded in the background and then you decide which one you want to share with others).
You can decide what happens when someone Tags you in photos, only your approved people’s (or circles’) tags link to your profile. If other people tag you, it will be just your name there and no link to your profile, these images don’t go to the ‘Photos of You’ section.
You can decide to remove specific people or circles from appearing on your Public Profile & you can link other accounts to your profile also (Twitter, Facebook etc).
Let these two images speak for themselves.
There is so much here to explore. These small tips/tricks and tweaks are everywhere, it’s like taking Facebook as a platform and improving it, to know how it feels you have to experience it for yourself. Take this, you login to Gmail and you get your notifications there at the top right corner.
Wide business adoption is expected to follow in coming days; they will find ways to utilize it. Currently there aren’t many business features like Fan Pages (but they are coming very soon).
Take this hypothetical situation in which an organization has three products X, Y & Z. It can distribute its users into circles based on that information and than update them e.g. A driver update link for Product X is sent only to Prod.
X users & these users can collaborate in real time letting the company know of any issues almost instantly.
An organization can divide its employees into groups Prod X – Dev Team and the Prod – Y Testers and the communication is only between them. It’s not that you can’t do it anywhere else but the ease and flexibility that Google+ offers is nowhere else.
Obviously it won’t work for large organizations and Google has been very specific services coming, which aren’t available with current Field Trial version. Google even discourages Business profiles for the moment. But take this, Google Plus + Google Apps = ?
If they offer it as a Google Apps feature or Google Apps integration for organizations they will have their own personal small Social Network, just for them. This will reduce the social gaps between employees; let them know each other better, improve communication and with that productivity, with control of the Admin on the content.
Future memos will be sent to Circles. Well, I guess I went too far here but let’s see what Google+ can offer businesses, currently there isn’t much and a limit of 5,000 people in circles (this will be removed too).
What is Facebook’s most valuable asset? What Gold Mine generates those Billions for Facebook? You may not have realized it but now is the time that you do, it is Your Data.
The information that you share is used to target Ads and in one way or the other it will be made available to others (devs & businesses) because in their business model that is the cash cow.
What will be Google’s most valuable asset on Google+? Again, your data. So what’s the difference than? Will it turn out to be another Facebook with open access to other people, the developers, the organizations?
I don’t think so; first Google won’t repeat the same mistake that Facebook did (that’s evident from their work). Two, Google is inherited-ly different from Facebook. In Google’s case computers/bots will process the data, generate relevant information from that and share that result.
For example an Advertiser will only know that 50% of the people from Islamabad go to online shops, 34% of them go to X, while product Q was discussed by 12% of the people.
“To protect your privacy, we follow three principles when we serve ads:
- Transparency – We provide detailed information about our advertising policies and practices.
- Choice – We offer innovative ways to view, manage and opt out of advertising cookies and other anonymous IDs.
- No personally identifying information – We don’t collect or serve ads based on personally identifying information without your permission.”
More here: http://www.google.com/intl/en/privacy/
First and foremost, it is a product in the making and has features to add and bugs to fix. Like in the Stream you have no option to see recently added posts; those with new comments appear on top. To get rid of them you’ll have to mute them. Birthday reminders and and other similar stuff is missing – but we can expect them coming in following months.
Now, the impact: Geeks, Nerds, early adopters and privacy nuts (like me) are already there and quite enjoying it. But the important question is, will the common user, a school going boy, a grandpa, a mom or a teenager move to Google+?
Frankly, that’s unlikely, at this moment at least. For them it’s just another Facebook with some apparently fancy features that they may compromise on. The amount of content that they have shared and consumed on Facebook won’t allow them to move out easily. It is like service contracts or the Golden Handcuffs.
Google+ has the capability to attract, it’s magnetic. Once businesses join in & its features get fully baked than we will have a better picture. But it won’t replace Facebook, not in the near future, what it will do is create the ‘parallel universe’.
(Side note: even just the Hangout feature can attract people towards Google+).