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Introducing Google+: Why Facebook’s Monopoly and Twitter’s Heyday May Be Over

| July 10, 2011

google plus revolution

Another understated revolution.

By Kyle Russell

The realm of social networking sites is always changing. First, there was Friendster, the so-called “granddaddy” of social networks. Next up was MySpace, which was what introduced most teenagers and young adults to social media, but died soon after being acquired by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp for $580 million (it recently sold for only $35 million).

Kyle russell berkeley university

Kyle Russell (© FlaglerLive)

Of course, everyone and their mother is aware of the juggernaut that is Facebook, which recently passed the 750 million user mark, is probably well on its way to having a valuation of $100 billion, and is the first website to have an Oscar-winning movie made about its creation. But what’s currently shaking up the Internet is a new service created by the search giant Google, known as “Google+”. According to Google’s former CEO, it already has millions of users. That’s extraordinary for a service that’s only been active for 12 days.

But what is Google+, and why is there so much hype? At first glance, it appears to be “like Facebook, but not Facebook”. On further examination, it provides so much more. Intrinsic to the service is the concept of “Circles”, a system where users organize the people they know into groups. While this seems fairly rudimentary in concept, the execution is superb. Rather than having one group of “friends” for every single person you know, as on Facebook, Google+ gives several categories to start with, and users can add more as they see fit. This allows the site to match users’ “real” social lives with their online interactions: rather than share that inappropriate joke with your parents and coworkers, you can post the message in your “friends” circle, where you know it’ll be taken the right way. This also prevents one of the main problems associated with having an online identity, the idea that potential employers could see your online profile and not like what they see.

Besides Circles, there are two features that push social networking forward. “Hangouts” are a group video chats, where up to 10 people at a time can converse for free (unlike Skype, which requires payment for group chat). The fact that these chats are all done within the browser is significant: do you think your grandmother would video chat if she had to install camera drivers, download Skype, create an account, and add your username? What if she only had to log in with her Gmail account, type in your actual name, and click the big green “start a hangout” button?

The second feature is known as “Sparks”. Sparks are essentially automated Google searches. To set up Sparks, users enter a category such as “Apple Computers”, and whenever they click on the that category, the latest news about that category is brought up. While this may seem rather pointless, in practice it’s quite useful. For those with experience in social networking, think about the last time you were staring at your Facebook, but didn’t really have anything to say. Sparks find things that interest you and let you keep the conversation moving forward.

The Live Commentary

So, from someone who has used Google+, is it worth trying out? In a word: yes. In many more words: yes, especially if you use Gmail on a regular basis/wish you could combine Twitter and Facebook/would like to connect with people that are essentially inaccessible on other sites (I’m currently “acquaintances” with two of my favorite writers, which is awesome). The only “problem” one could complain about is that the site isn’t open for just anyone; to gain access to Google+, one must be invited by someone who is already a member. This has advantages and disadvantages: it has built up hype, due to being “exclusive”, as well as reducing the amount of spam; at the same time, the site feels a bit empty right now. Luckily, this is a problem that is quickly becoming moot, as from my experience it seems many users invite at least 10 of their “real” friends upon signing up.

Where do I think Google+ will be a year from now? Assuming that the hype stays in place for the next month or so, that everyone with a Gmail account is eventually allowed in without an invite, and Google integrates Google+ with its Android operating system and Chrome web browser, Google+ may be the next 100+ million user social network. The ability to “follow” someone as you would on Twitter and talk to your friends as you would on Facebook without either feeling like it’s missing features is winner. The site is already integrated with many of Google’s other products: Gmail users, notice the black bar at the top of the screen? Google+. Search for something on Google and notice that all the links have a “+1” button to the side of them? That’s the equivalent of the “Like” button on Google+. Upload any pictures on Picasa? Those can be transferred to your Google+ profile. Just through the sheer size of the range of its products, Google has managed to bring aspects of its new service to hundreds of millions of people, in 12 days. In this way, Google+ lives up to its name. It’s like Google, but better.

On other fronts, LinkedIn no longer has the best system for interacting with employers and coworkers effectively, and Twitter no longer has a monopoly on following trends. Google+ may have just put them out of business. Facebook has over a tenth of the world population as active users, so it may have little to fear over the next few years.

Kyle Russell, a FlaglerLive contributor, graduated Flagler Palm Coast High School at the top of the Class of 2011. He’ll be studying computer science at Berkeley starting this fall, and blogs here.

14 Responses for “Introducing Google+: Why Facebook’s Monopoly and Twitter’s Heyday May Be Over”

  1. …very good overview; well done Kyle! And best wishes in your studies.

    In Google+ Circles, proper grouping of people and streams to “listen to” (which twitter lists are a good example of) and publish to, is a plus huge plus vis a vis Facebook.

    Facebook slacked with a meaningful and practical grouping of friend function; now they have catching up to do (and they probably will spin-off functionality from their existing grouping module).

    Remember though that Google had their busts in Wave and Buzz; though Google+ will probably stick. Not everyone will leave facebook and run to google+; facebook is here to stay quite a while, too,

    With the addition of google+, one thing that needs to be addressed is defining what this all is as “Social Media.” “Media” in that terminology has been confusing for many. Something like ❝Social Sharing Platforms❞ is perhaps a better definition. What do you think?

  2. Kyle Russell says:

    While I agree that the phrase “social sharing platforms” is more accurate, I feel like these companies have found that “social media” is better for marketing to the groups that make or break the majority of these sites: teens and young adults. “Media” has many things associated with it – fame, money, Hollywood – and even if there’s no direct correlation between the two, there’s that psychological underpinning.

  3. Pierre Tristam says:

    Just as we’re in the midst of Tech Bubble 2.0 (Groupon eying a $30 billion public offfering, Zynga at $20 billion, Twitter at $8 billion, and Facebook, as Kyle noted, nearing $100 billion), I think facebook itself created its own user-inflated bubble, metaphorically and literally, because all this time there really was nothing else out there, so it got away with its clunkiness, its indifference to developers, its limited functionalities–just as Twitter has. There’s a pop in their future (and in the tech bubble’s days, which are numbered). Google has the advantage of applying its own prowess to those two outfits’ lessons and finally developing what appears to be (what I hope will be) the integrated version of the best of Twitter with the best of Facebook, minus the lack of style of both. There’s an elegance to Google approach that’s immediately appealing. Plus there’s Google’s endless other worlds, which will be driving the appeal of Google+ as one part of a much larger, functional experience. Facebook and Twitter are really sole islands. Google is a planet.

  4. palmcoaster says:

    Congratulations to Kyle Russell and lots of success in your studies choice. Make sure that what you will be choosing, that also will be very costly to you/your family, is an area of expertise that “can’t be easily outsource” My appreciation to Pierre for introducing to us all, this exceptional local student.
    Regarding the tone of your editorial I can confess here that I never liked Facebook, but also at over 60 years old I am from the old school. My privacy is very valuable to me. Facebook has been hyper to an almost fraudulent value for all those candid investors that give in to well intended distortion and over inflated valuation by powers that be in Wall Street as well as the media. A big bubble ready to burst and a stock that I will not touch with a ten foot pole. I am and will always be a fan of Google that provides me most information that I daily research without demanding “a membership and that I sign in”. I dislike the Facebook prepotency that if I am not a member I can’t use it. So I don’t! If we have to pay for every piece of information that we want to research on the Internet like in: Facebook, Twitter, Realty Track, People Search, Public Records Searches in some areas, etc. will be not enough salary we make enough to pay for it.. Everyone wants to make $$$$ on our socializing or even worst in our searches. If we will all analyze it, will see that our personal and business information are utilized for free (as they do not pay us nothing for its unapproved marketing and I feel like they should be sued by us or get our approval first to disseminate our data) by all these Internet businesses, charging a membership to release our personal/business information. We should all be making some of that dough as our personal and or business information is utilized for revenue by the very few. I totally agree that Google is the Planet as I can research for free anything I need, furthermore gives us also for free the incredible Google Earth and Maps .Wondrous!! Go Google Go.

  5. Kyle Russell says:

    Thanks for you appreciation of the article. Unfortunately, computer science in and of itself is quite easy to outsource, but there are companies like Apple that use “designed in California” as a marketing gimmick. As far as your comment on privacy go, Google+ really is ahead of the curve thanks to the ability to only post to certain groups.

  6. Liana G says:

    Facebook just added Skype to their chat box allowing for free computer to computer video chat only. Using mobile to computer will cost you. Micorsoft now owns Skype and has shares in Facebook. Will be interesting to see how things play out between FB/Microsoft and Google.

  7. palmcoaster says:

    The only problem with Skype is that if on, crashes or disrupts other programs. Monopolizes too much found out after not being able to connect to some. My son found out for me getting on my laptop via
    Logmein from AZ. He is a Bachelor in Computer Science and Networking and fixes our problems if any long distance from AZ. Regarding Apple, Steve Jobs needs to bring back the manufacturing jobs back home and stop being so greedy and he needs to do it soon before himself will be gone. He should do it for all the young excelling students like you Kyle, to secure our young professionals future.

  8. Kyle Russell says:

    I think the Skype/Facebook partnership is a case of too little, too late. It’s still only one person at a time, and Google+ also lets groups watch YouTube videos together. As for those manufacturing jobs, those aren’t exactly for students like myself – those Foxconn workers are essentially slaves, with working conditions that lead people to commit suicide. Not to be cynical, but Americans don’t want those kinds of jobs.

  9. Liana G says:

    Kyle, you’re wise beyond your years. But don’t underestimate the desire for power and dominace. Over population is the reason we have these slave markets and globalization contributes to exploitation. Americans do want those kinds of jobs but bringing them back will require employers to pay fair market wages which do not serve their interest. Profit over People is the mantra of American corporations.

  10. palmcoaster says:

    Liana just took those words from my mouth, Kyle.
    Americans, we need those jobs too, but not in slavery conditions but with fair pay rates, benefit, vacation, medical and healthy working environment. In few words on a way that the employer will make a non greedy but realistic profit. Not like now. Shame on Steve Jobs and all the Apple investors profiteering from slavery because since 12 years ago was given green flag in the US, other than prosecution.
    We need to recover all our lost appliances manufacturing, computers and electronic gadgets as well as automotive, foot ware and clothing and furniture, back home

  11. Kyle Russell says:

    I honestly don’t believe that those jobs will ever “come back”. There’s simply no motive for companies to build new factories here, train workers, pay them competitive salaries with benefits, and take less profit in the long run. It’s unrealistic to ever expect them to do so, unless A) the dollar falls to unprecedented lows, or B)Chinese wages and benefits skyrocket/United States workers accept outrageously low salaries. Until then, it’s simply more economically efficient to maintain the status quo.

  12. palmcoaster says:

    Or unless we tax some of those electronic imports.

  13. Kyle Russell says:

    That would do it, and have several other benefits. However, this is probably the worst Congress to ask for any new taxes.

  14. D says:

    Congrats, Kyle. Very informative and interesting to me as I am always looking for ways to expand my presence on Planet Google. Which brings me to this slightly off-topic question: I’m a big fan and user of Google Voice. As you may know, they expanded its “trial period” last December for another full year. Do you see Google continuing the present usage policy of free for the US & Canada?

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