Google has launched Google+ recently. Should Facebook (and Twitter) be worried? Absolutely. So far, Google+ has turned out to be a great product even if it’s rough around the edges, and it promises to be much more. In a previous post titled Google goes social, I was not sure about the purposes of Google Profile and +1, but they make sense in the context of Google+. I am still somewhat sceptical about the social turn of the internet as a matter of fact or direction, or as something that is desirable, but I can see that this is an important step for Google, and for the internet.
Facebook is, essentially, a one-trick pony. It has walled in a large number of account holders, pulled up the drawbridge, and charges advertisers and others third parties for the access to that market. Its value therefore relies on the fact that a sufficient number of people are using it, and there are a sufficient number of advertisers and third parties willing to pay for that access. If Google+ can establish itself, and steal a good portion of market share in social networking and sharing from Facebook, then Facebook’s value will drop. And it can happen damningly quick, as the fate of MySpace demonstrates. What’s more, given Google’s revenue source, Google+ does not have to make money for Google, whereas losing users will hurt Facebook considerably.
There seems to be more and more products and features lined up for Google+. There are many rumours and some hints, but Google employees are extremely well-disciplined, so we’ll have to see what it comes up with next. If I were to guess, then it would be a more seamless integration of different products and platforms. Here Google’s strengths, such as in video sharing (YouTube) and pictures (Picasa), will be very useful. Google also has platforms, such as the Chrome OS, Chrome browser and Android. How many of these does Facebook (or Twitter) have? If Google can integrate all these different products and place them cross-platform through a single focal point that is Google+, then it will be very tough for the competitors.
I think it’s too early to write off Facebook and Twitter, but they will need to come up with something that will make their products attractive to retain and gain users. We’re entering yet another fascinating period in the evolution of the internet as a tool of communication.