Is the Future Plus-Sized?
Google+ has generated more headlines than it has social activity since its launch. Only today, we've seen news suggesting that the new social networking service has boosted Google's value by US$ 20 billion, a good sign that investors think the company is onto a winner. With an estimated two million users already, things do seem to be going well.
Much of the more user-focused posts so far have been about how Google+ will allow users to reboot their stuffed Facebook friend's list, re-categorize their social lives and invest their time in re-energizing friendships with people they value but may have dropped under the radar.
It isn't hard to imagine that those first friends will be either a user's closest or more tech-savvy ones, so will boost the quality and quantity of conversations, encouraging the stickiness that any service requires to thrive and survive.
Taking Circles for A Spin
In use, it is plain to see the appeal, and indeed fun, of using Google+'s Circles feature. Categorizing your friends is like reordering your CD or Blu-ray collection, who goes here, who goes there, what witty Circle name can I have for this group or that?
While only a tiny percentage of your Facebook friends are likely to be on Google+ right now, the theory is that it only takes a small number to create enough peer pressure for others to join (or at least to start demanding invites). Once that happens, the surge should pick up the rest of your tech savvy friends, and the rest of the herd will follow in their own good time.
The web-cam equipped will also be rocking out with their friends in the Hangout section, something that Facebook is trying to match with its Skype-based video chat service, but really seems rather bland if you've already gotten into a 10-person shouting match.
A Private Party
On the privacy front, many commentators seem to think the Google is doing a better job than it did with the launch of Buzz. And, by limiting the scope of the rollout, it can get things generally acceptable to all before the mass market turns up.
Things aren't quite going without panic though, some photographers are up in arms over the possible misuse of their works stored in Picasa via different interpretations of the terms of service, but this is why its a trial and not a full launch.
Still, it's early days but with Google+ infiltrating users' desktops via Google Docs, Gmail and other Google products, its level of visibility will be unprecedented and if it does catch the general public's attention, Facebook and others will have a major fight on their hands to maintain users.
Will you dump the whole Facebook system for a new, smaller, untried service? It's unlikely, but over time users could see their social networks coexist before moving firmly into one camp or the other, it's happened before and will happen again.