Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Google+ : The Journey So Far

   Google is a behemoth which having started as a humble search engine now spans over most of our digital lives. In its latest foray it has taken over the social networking world by storm with their shiny new product - Google+. Is it a facebook-killer? Heck it is. At least its designed with that in mind. No matter how much Google denies this but one of the chief reasons Google+ has been conceived, at all, is to kill facebook's dominance in social space. And this has not only to do with the advertising dollars that facebook was starting to grab from Google's wallet. But if you go by Google's own theory there's more than meet's the eye.
   Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. And they did fine all this while to live up to their mission, even excelled beyond just search. Then came along the social networking wave and as everyone knows they missed it completely, in fact they completely ignored it. Although they had products like Orkut but they were still not integrated into the mainstream Google ideology. When facebook clearly emerged as the dominant social network and started eating up from Google's ad lunches, Google took notice. Meanwhile Facebook also had amassed something important. FB not only had a huge user base but they also had access to user's social graph. 
   By this time Google had realized that in their mission to organize the world's information they were missing a very important piece of the puzzle - "People" or as some call it Online Identity. Yes it is people who make the information, it is people who consume the information. This made Google to pull up its socks and start working. Their initial efforts - Google Wave and Google Buzz - stumbled. But Google came back with vengeance. And what a comeback it has been so far. Google+ has since been received with glorious reviews and is all set to compete with facebook for online identity. It may take years to get the kind of user base that facebook enjoys today. Google is aware of this and hence have repeatedly said that Google+ is a long-term project. In fact they call it less as a social network but more as a project to make Google social and this is a just a tip of the iceberg with more rocking features yet to land. 
   But being late to the party has its advantages. Google+ could learn from the shortcomings of other existing social networks. So Facebook's shortcomings gave Circles and Twitter gave asymmetrical relationships. But Google+'s killer feature to me is that awesome black bar hanging around all Google properties. It keeps one engaged irrespective of where we are on Google. Those red notifications on black bar are conspicuous enough to catch one's eyes. No wonder Google hired ex Apple lead designer Andy Hertzfeld to create the UI and UX of Google+. While it remains to be seen how Google+ fares, the initial momentum it has garnered is wonderful. Paul Allen, the founder of Ancestry.com, already says that by 12th July 2011 Google+ could have 10 million users and 20 million by weekend. And that is in just about 3 weeks of launch. Bill Gross even goes to the length proclaiming that Google+ will go from 0 to 100 million users faster than any other service in history.

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