Google+ Challenges in a Facebook World

Since Google+ launched June 28, users lucky enough to get invites have been making mental and written checklists of comparisons between the new Google+ social network and the

Yes, with the arrival of Google+ as a potentially big new
network, Facebook and Twitter have become the incumbent to Google’s challenger.
And yet there is always a lot of uncertainty around a product in limited
field test.

Google+ comparisons to Facebook may be more a curse than a blessing at a time when + needs to show how it offers consumers and businesses a meaty alternative to the world’s top social network of 700 million-plus users.

There are subtle differences between + and Facebook. Robert Scoble is correct in noting Google+ is not “mommy friendly,” meaning that it is limited to
early invitees and a bit more tricky to use than the decidedly user-friendly

Curating Circles, which as Scoble said can take hours,
may prove to be a challenge for some users accustomed to broadcasting
one-to-many on Facebook. Then again, Fred Wilson believes his dad might like Google+ for the Circles curation alone.

Altimeter Group founder Charlene Li said Google+ finally
enables sharing among Google users with relevant context, something not available
in Gmail, Google Voice and other applications.

However, Li told eWEEK that while Google has taken pains to
give users more control over social circles, she is concerned that she has to
link her private Gmail address to Google+ and that she can’t stop people from
adding her to circles. “They need to find that privacy button fast!”

Indeed, Google isimproving a small privacy hole around its resharing feature.

Noting that Facebook Groups failed to catch on at
Facebook, where they were bolted on last October, Forrester Research analyst
Nate Elliott likes the notion that users get to form Circles from the start,
providing a bottom up approach.

“This isn’t a Facebook killer; instead, like
Facebook’s own Open Graph, it’s another splinter in the social Web — making it
ever easier for people to access their networks and social content on any Web
site through any device. And that’s exciting for users and Website owners,”
Elliott wrote.

IDC analyst Hadley Reynolds believes Circles aligns powerfully
with how people actually relate and fills an online void.

Moreover, the Hangouts
group video chat feature could be great for geographically extended families
and business workgroups. He thinks that vast majority of Google’s Gmail users will
try Google+.

However, Reynolds said Facebook has the tremendous
advantage of being the social home base of choice for most people, and almost
everyone is reluctant to take the time and effort to create another profile,
another set of connections, another destination to frequent and to maintain
over time.

“We only have so much time to invest in the social Web. Any new entrant in the market – and in this segment, Google still is a
newbie – will need something truly different and valuable to shake people out
of their Facebook habit,” Reynolds told eWEEK.

Moreover, Reynolds isn’t sure Google has enough differentiating
features to offer users that they can’t already get from Facebook.

Reynolds’ analog to this conundrum is the challenge Bing faces
in trying to get people to try something other than Google search, which leads
the U.S. market with 65 percent share and boasts 90 percent-plus of searchers
in other countries.

IDC analyst Karsten Weide agreed with his colleague
Reynolds that the  only way for Google to
“win” against Facebook is to have a more complete set of better, more
compelling features than Facebook.

“The problem is, Facebook has been working on its
feature set a lot longer than Google,” Weide said in a research note July 1.
“Mind you, Facebook’s usefulness is still a far cry from social’s original
promise to ascend the Web to a whole new qualitative level of connectedness and
utility. Still, it is the game to beat.”



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