It's hard to imagine that there is a Facebook killer somewhere around the next tech innovation, but there probably is.
Granted, in the end, it won't look much like a "killer" but probably closer to something new, shiny and different that has enough new whiz bang boom to garner attention. Many thought that this was what would become of Twitter. It just seemed so much easier and simpler than the more complex neediness of Facebook. Who couldn't create a 140-character message? Twitter was (and still is) a much more mobile-friendly experience. On top of that, it's easy to add, find and share with friends, and there was something about the limitation of the message that made the barrier to entry fairly low (even though many who jump on the Twitter bandwagon find themselves struggling to understand how to find and follow people while grappling with the new language of hashtags, retweets and URL shorteners). What we've learned in the online social networking world of Facebook and Twitter is that there is more co-dependency between the two platforms than walled gardens that users are not allowed to cross.
The truth is that it's hard to beat Facebook at this point.
With over 750 million registered users that cross all demographics, psychographics and gender, one could argue that Facebook is an Internet unto itself. Yes, there is some fatigue (a few weeks back, Inside Facebook - an organization that reports on everything Facebook - showed that there was either a plateau effect or a decline in the number of new accounts being created in places like the U.S., Canada, UK, etc...). Yes, many people (and some governments) still have a bug about Facebook and their privacy settings. Yes, with anything this big there are many thousands of people who still complain and gripe about the service. But, for all of those warts, many people are heavily invested in the platform (and I'm not talking about those who are waiting for Facebook's pending IPO). People like you and I have created our social circles within Facebook, we've spent time nurturing our profiles, updating our status, linking our social graphs together, uploading pictures, tagging them, following events and more. We're there. Our friends are there, and not being there leaves us - somewhat - out of social loop.
Twitter seems to augment the Facebook experience and vice-versa and that's where the interesting business applications kick in.
Last week, Google launched a brand new online social network called, Google +. Currently, it's a closed environment that can only be accessed if you're invited, and by the looks of the online chatter, Google is allowing people with significant Social Media experience in first to see how it stands up, performs and gets chatted about prior to opening the flood gates for all to use. There is widespread skepticism about Google's ability to be successful in the online social networking space. In the past, they've made strong attempts with Orkut, Wave and Buzz but the overall results paled in comparison to the success of Twitter or Facebook. With Google + users can create "circles" that allow them to segment their connections (i.e. friends, family, co-workers, etc...), they can follow or create an area of shared interest called a "spark" (let's say you're into Thai cuisine or mixed martial arts or eating Thai cuisine while watching mixed martial arts), you can share your images or even create a live get-together known as a "hangout," and the integration between the Web and mobile experience looks seamless (with the one exception being that the iPhone app is not available yet).
So, how does Google + stack up?
They've clearly learned from what Facebook and Twitter have done to keep people engaged, and the platform is simple and easy to navigate and connect with. Will it be a Facebook killer? My general motto is "everything is 'with' not 'instead of'," but with so much similar functionality, it's hard to believe that the average user will feel the need to have two environments that ultimately do the same thing: allow me to creep on my friends, family and co-workers. On top of that, users will have to feel that Google + is so superior that it's worthy or rebuilding all of the connections that have already been consummated in the Facebook platform. From the businessperson's perspective, it's important to know and play with Google + (if you're lucky enough to get an invite or once it opens up for the general masses) as the audiences and the type of engagement that happen in different online social networks is usually unique to the platform (i.e. the discussion around some of my Blog posts is very different when you compare the comments section of the Blog to Twitter and then to Facebook). Much like LinkedIn is skewed towards the business professional, the types of people who engage in Google + may be very different from the average Facebook user (but only time will tell). Google + would be much more interesting if it was co-dependent on Facebook. While that may sound like heresy, just imagine if you could port your information and data from one to another and the stuff that Google + does would augment your Facebook experience (or vice-versa).
In a world of co-opertition (competition + cooperation), it may be Google's best play at actually slaying the Facebook giant.
The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business - Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:
- Montreal Gazette - New Google + doesn't add up to a Facebook killer.
- Vancouver Sun - Codependency in the age of Facebook.