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Google’s unending efforts in Social Media – Will Google+ work?

Google has been consistent in its efforts to be a contender in the social media race. Their major efforts include the development of Orkut (you must be thinking what’s that – read on!), Google wave (was a hype once), the release of Google Buzz (remember that???), and now Google+ (Google Plus). With the outrageous popularity of Facebook and Twitter, Google clearly does not want to be left behind in this domain and has therefore upped its efforts and investments to be a key player in social media.

In 2003, Google offered to purchase the social network Friendster, but they declined the offer. Google then internally commissioned Orkut Büyükkökten to work on a competing independent project. The result was Orkut. The product launched on January 24, 2004, which was 9 days before the launch of Facebook, which now boasts nearly 750 million users (as per Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement on July 6, 2011) . Orkut.com initially had its largest user base in the United States, but that soon changed with the site being noticed in Brazil (later in 2004) and then in India (in 2006-2007). The site became highly popular in these countries but unfortunately failed to create a buzz anywhere else.

Speaking of buzz, Google Buzz was launched in February 2010. Google Buzz is a social networking and messaging tool from Google that is integrated into Gmail, Google’s free email service. Buzz serves as a micro-blogging platform, much like the hugely popular Twitter. Buzz received a lot of criticism from both consumer and technical media. Because of the plethora of criticism that followed Google Buzz, it has not become popular and most of the people have stuck to Twitter for micro-blogging.
Prior to the release of Buzz, Google Wave was released in September 2009. It would “set a new benchmark for interactivity,” said Sergey Brin in May 2009 when they unveiled the real time messaging platform to an enthusiastic crowd of developers at the Google I/O event in San Francisco. The product was part email, part Twitter and part instant messaging. Users could drag files from the desktop to a discussion. Wave even showed character-by-character live typing. And while the service had many, or at least some, passionate users, it “has not seen the user adoption we would have liked,” said Google. Recognizing another flop, they stopped further development in August 2010. While, Google wave is still available, it is being phased out shortly.

Tech Crunch came up with the term “Google’s WWF”, which stands for “Google’s War With Facebook.” In 2010, Google appointed Vic Gundotra as the Senior Vice President of Social Media at Google and is considered to be the Social Czar at Google, as reported by Gigaom.

Gundotra officially introduced the Google+ project to the world on Google’s official blog on June 28, 2011. Google+ is considered to be Google’s biggest initiative yet in the social networking domain. It’s currently in its testing phase and is (or was) an invitation-only service (the invitations feature was recalled the next day due to an insane demand for accounts). Google+ will integrate different Google social services, such as Google Profiles and Google Buzz. It also introduces many new features including Circles, Hangouts, Sparks and Huddles. Google+ will also be available as a desktop application and as an application on Android and iOS.

Various features of Google+ are considered as fresh and make it different and interesting with respect to its biggest rival, Facebook. The announced features of Google+ include:

  • Circles – A feature that enables users to organize contacts into groups (such as Ski group, Acquaintances, Family etc.) for sharing, across various Google products and services. It has a simple drag-and-drop interface that allows users to create groups of their choice.
  • Huddle – A feature available for mobile phone users, specifically to Android, iPhone, and SMS devices for communicating with circles.
  • Hang – A feature that allows users to “hang out” with their friends. It’s used to facilitate group video chat (with a maximum of 10 people participating in a single Hangout at any point in time).
  • Instant Upload – Specific to Android mobile devices; it stores photos or video in a private album for sharing later.
  • Sparks – A front-end to Google Search, enabling user to identify topics they might be interested in sharing with others; “featured interests” Sparks are also available, based on topics others globally are finding interesting.
  • Streams – This is a feature similar to the facebook news feeds. Through Streams, users see updates from those in their circles. The input box allows users to enter a status update or use icons to upload and share photo and videos.
  • +1 (Plus One) – Released in March 2011 as a standalone button for Google users. It’s similar to the Facebook LIKE button. Users can +1 anything that they like and would like to share with the world on the web. The +1 button is integrated into Google+ for pretty much everything.

Check out the following video to have a quick look at Google+:

For now, Google+ has received great reviews and there’s a lot of excitement in the public to get their hands on it. This is the full-fledged attempt by Google to compete with Facebook in a domain where it has been struggling for quite some time now. I think that Google+ is impressive and is better than the previous attempts by the company. But in order to lead in the game they have to steal the users currently on Facebook and make them loyal to Google+. Not an easy task. But if Microsoft’s Bing can compete with Google and get to a 31.6% market share (as per reports from Compete.com – May 2011), Google+ can definitely create ripples in the sea of social networking. We will soon find out, how Google+ will fare with respect to Facebook.

It will also be interesting to see what Facebook will do to keep its current user base (hint – in browser video chat supported by Skype) Is there any coincidence that today’s announcement by Mark Zuckerberg is believed to be regarding Skype on Facebook? We think not.
Speaking of Zuckerberg; The most followed person on Google+ is the Facebook creator – Mark Zuckerberg (as per the Official Google+ statistics of the Top 100 most popular Google+ users). What a small (online) world.

You can read more about Google+ on the Google’s official blog at http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/06/introducing-google-project-real-life.html

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