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...And why Google+ is no Facebook killer

social-media Updated: Aug 12, 2011 11:40 IST
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With its new social network, Google has scored a huge blow against its archenemy.

Yes, Google+ delivers features and functionality that Microsoft's Bing search engine can't touch.

Wrong archenemy, you say? Google+ is supposed to be a Facebook-killer? Ehhh, not so much.

At least not now. While Google+ brings some welcome new features to the social-networking space, there's no great innovation that would make you want to use it as your primary online identity, or that Facebook couldn't emulate if it chose to.

Google+, which launched about a month ago, is officially a beta, or test, service; to join, you need an invitation from someone who's already a user. Judging from the evidence, invites aren't very hard to come by: Less than three weeks after launch, Chief Executive Officer Larry Page announced that the service had already signed up 10 million members.

That sounds like a lot, and it is. But considering that Facebook is up around three-quarters of a billion, Google+ has a long way to go before your friends are as likely to be hanging out there as they are on the competition.

One unexpected result of using Google+ was that I found myself much more likely to use other parts of the Google ecosystem. Things like Gmail and the Picasa photo-sharing site, which have been around longer than Google+, felt less like disparate products and more like features of a unified, personal service.

Google describes its new network as a "project," and I encountered a number of issues that made clear this is very much a work in progress. For example, I was unable to install the hangouts feature on a Mac using Apple's Safari web browser; I finally got it working in Google's Chrome browser.

Until the bugs are worked out and the service is opened to all comers, we have no way of knowing whether people really want or need another social network — and if so, whether this one's features are compelling enough to attract them.

For Google, the best-case scenario is that the service proves so flexible and easy to use that it creates a network effect, where more and more people join because so many of their friends are already on it.

The worst case is that Google+ becomes to Facebook what Bing is to Google, less a real competitor than simply an alternative with some interesting features that aren't sufficiently compelling to ever lift it above being a distant No. 2.

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