Any why Facebook is panicking.
After two full months of using Google+, I can say, emphatically, that Google+ doesn’t suck. Google+ was Google’s best product launch since Google launched Gmail on April Fools’ Day, 2004. And Google+ was the best social networking product launch ever. I am adding Google+ followers (i.e. Google+ users are adding me to their “circles”) at a rate second only to Twitter. The quality of interaction is high. And, much to my surprise, I find myself actually spending time on Google+ proper. Much of this is by design. Clever, startup-like, inspired design.
What Is Google+?
Google+ (or Google Plus) is a social networking platform that is like a cross between Twitter and Facebook. LinkedIn launched in May 2003, Facebook launched in February 2004, Twitter launched in July 2006, Google+ launched in June 2011. Does it matter that Google launched fourth? Not really. Google was not the first search engine either. And when startups launch new products/services, they generally have to be first, finest, or they’re f*cked.
Google+ is here to stay. And it’s great.
Layers vs. Umbrellas
When Google was struggling with how (or whether) to integrate a social networking layer into its ecosystems, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg famously dissed Google’s efforts by saying (and I paraphrase) “Social is not a layer.”
For Facebook, that is true. Facebook started out as a social network. Then started bolting on various other offerings. Such as messaging, photo sharing, and video sharing.
Google, on the other hand, started out as a search engine. Then added various other stand-alone offerings. Such as messaging (Gmail in April 2004), photo sharing (Picasa in July 2004), and video sharing (YouTube in November 2006).
So there weren’t a lot of options for Google other than adding a layer to its existing stand-along offerings. The Google toolbar is the missing social layer that makes Google+ omnipresent.
In February 2011, Google started cleaning up its user interface (UI) with a social-friendly navigation bar. In June 2011, the Google navigation bar turned black, a subtle change that forced users to notice the navigation bar. Which forced users to notice Google+.
The black Google navigation bar is more than a layer, it is an umbrella, protecting and gluing together all of Google’s properties under one roof. Genius. So when you are logged in to any Google property, you’ll see, in the upper-right corner of the navigation bar, if you have any new Google+ notifications. And you’ll be able to share links by dragging them to the “Share…” box.
Why Is Facebook Panicking?
1. Because Google effectively created buzz. Google launched Google+ slowly, intentionally, invite-only. To create buzz. To create exclusivity. I was disgruntled when I was a Google+ outsider, I was pleased when I became a Google+ insider. If you’ve seen The Social Network movie (aka the Facebook movie), you’ll remember that Facebook created buzz in the same way.
2. Because you can’t automatically post to Google+ from services such as Ping.fm. Yet. You have to go to Google+ to post to Google+. So people are going to Google+.
3. Because you can’t get feeds out of Google+ into feed/RSS readers such as Google Reader (for browsers) or Reeder (for iPhone, iPad, iMac). Yet. You have to go to Google+ to read Google+. So people are going to Google+.
4. Because it will be hard for Facebook to spin out its proprietary services (messaging, photo sharing, and video sharing) into stand-alone properties. Meanwhile, Google is using its stand-alone properties to increase membership in Google+.
True, Google+ doesn’t do pages, groups, events. Yet. And Facebook does all of these well. But Facebook didn’t launch all of these services on day one either. Google’s roll-out has been cautious, intentional, incremental, smart.
Google+ can add the things it is missing. Google+ can be – if Google wants to make it – the first open standards-based social network. Standard APIs in, feeds out, data portability, etc.
Explaining My Love-Hate Relationship With Google
From 2005 to 2008, I paid over $20,000 for Google AdWords campaigns. Which is a sh*tload of money for a small business like mine. For my troubles, I got very few leads and fewer sales. My Cost Per Sale (CPS) was, in fact, greater than the Average Revenue Per Unit (ARPU), meaning my Return On Investment (ROI) was negative! Why? Because at some point Google decided to change the rules.
Google added a “quality score” to AdWords keywords that automatically increased the minimum bid for keywords with low search totals (i.e. the long tail). So the few profitable keywords that I used (such as “patent lawyer Maynard”) were automatically deactivated. Scott Jangro called this the Adwords Quality Score Spiral.
Google was supposed to be the great equalizer for small businesses like mine. Instead, as a result of this change, Google AdWords became unusable. I send wine to my best clients. But Google never even sent me a coffee cup!
So this is where the Google hate comes from. But I’m getting over it. Google+ is definitely bringing back the Google love.
Not Problem-Free But Pretty Darn Good
I was a huge critic of Google’s launch of Buzz, mostly due to Google Buzz privacy problems. But everything Google did wrong with its launch of Google Buzz they did right with the launch of Google+.
Google’s launch of Google+ was not problem free. Paying Google Apps customers like me were not the first to get the Google+ goods. Non-paying customers were first in line, which I thought odd. I belong to Google’s Trusted Tester program but also didn’t get my Google+ invite that way, which I thought doubly odd. But Google did effectively create buzz, even among its paying, trusted, skeptical customers.
On 08/02/11, I added Google+ to my email signature file. At the same time, I removed links to my email newsletter and to Google Reader. Proving that all Internet things have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Has Twitter peaked? Has Facebook? I don’t know. But Google+ is just getting started. And Google+ is too big and too good to ignore.
- Erik J. Heels’s Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week
from the forest-and-trees dept
- Google Legal Summit NYC 2010
Innovation And Disruption As A Google Core Value.
- Drawing That Explains Contact Syncing
Email is social networking glue.
- Drawing That Explains Social Networking
How to visualize social networking.
- Top 10 Google Products You Should Try
You are at a fork in the road. Time to choose between doing things the old way or trying something new.
- Gmail, Toast, and Frogs
I heart Gmail.
- Google+: The Latest (and Perhaps Greatest) Platform for Thought Leaders (2011-08-30)
- Google+: 10 things it does better (2011-08-23)
- Facebook Beware: Google+ Adds 25 Million Users (2011-08-22)
- Google+ Games Going Live (2011-08-12)
- Could Google+ be the first prominent open social network? (2011-08-02)
- Google+ iPhone App Now Available (2011-07-19)
- Want to post to Blogger from Google+? (2011-07-17)
- The Google+ Cheat Sheet (2011-07-12)
- Google To Retire Blogger & Picasa Brands in Google+ Push (2011-07-05)
- Google+ Offers Great Business Potential (2011-06-29)