Google+ Has Some Pluses, But Facebook Needn’t Worry

The threat to Facebook posed by the Google+ project became a reality Tuesday with its official rollout -- or did it?

The threat to Facebook posed by the Google+ project became a reality Tuesday with its official rollout — or did it?

While reaction to the debut of Google+ was mixed, the consensus was that Mark Zuckerberg will still have a job when he wakes up Wednesday morning.

Here are some highlights of the online reaction to Google+ and how it stacks up against Facebook, starting with the official introduction of the project from the official Google blog:

Among the most basic of human needs is the need to connect with others. With a smile, a laugh, a whisper, or a cheer, we connect with others every single day.

Today, the connections between people increasingly happen online. Yet the subtlety and substance of real-world interactions are lost in the rigidness of our online tools.

In this basic, human way, online sharing is awkward. Even broken. And we aim to fix it.

We’d like to bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software. We want to make Google better by including you, your relationships, and your interests. And so begins the Google+ project.

Not all relationships are created equal. So in life, we share one thing with college buddies, another with parents, and almost nothing with our boss. The problem is that today’s online services turn friendship into fast food — wrapping everyone in “friend” paper — and sharing really suffers:

It’s sloppy. We only want to connect with certain people at certain times, but online we hear from everyone all the time.

It’s scary. Every online conversation (with over 100 “friends”) is a public performance, so we often share less because of stage fright.

It’s insensitive. We all define “friend” and “family” differently — in our own way, on our own terms — but we lose this nuance online.

In light of these shortcomings we asked ourselves, “What do people actually do?” And we didn’t have to search far for the answer. People in fact share selectively all the time — with their circles.

From close family to foodies, we found that people already use real-life circles to express themselves, and to share with precisely the right folks. So we did the only thing that made sense: We brought Circles to software. Just make a circle, add your people, and share what’s new — just like any other day.

From GigaOM:

I don’t think Facebook has anything to worry about. However, there is a whole slew of other companies that should be on notice.

One of the reasons why I think Facebook is safe is because it cannot be beaten with this unified strategy. Theoretically speaking, the only way to beat Facebook is through 1,000 cuts. Photo-sharing services such as Instagram can move attention away from Facebook, much like other tiny companies that can bootstrap themselves based on the Facebook social graph and then built alternative graphs to siphon away attention from Facebook. Google could in theory go one step further — team up with alternative social graphs such as Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr and use those graphs to create an uber graph.

From TechCrunch:

“We believe online sharing is broken, and even awkward,” Google senior vice president of social Vic Gundotra said. “We think connecting with other people is a basic human need. We do it all the time in real life, but our online tools are rigid. They force us into buckets — or into being completely public. Real-life sharing is nuanced and rich. It has been hard to get that into software.”

From the little that I’ve seen so far, Google+ is by far the best effort in social that Google has put out there yet. But traction will be contingent upon everyone convincing their contacts to regularly use it. Even for something with the scale of Google, that’s not the easiest thing in the world — as we’ve seen with Wave and Buzz. There will need to be compelling reasons to share on Google+ instead of Facebook and/or Twitter — or, at the very least, along with all of those other networks. The toolbar and interesting communication tools are the most compelling reasons right now, but there will need to be more of them. And fast.

From Silicon Alley Insider:

Yes, it has been hard to get sharing into software. That’s why Facebook was created seven years ago. That’s why Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been trotting around the world for the past five years telling everyone that the company’s mission is to facilitate “sharing.” That’s why Facebook is now used by nearly 700 million people worldwide. That’s why Facebook is basically subsuming the Internet.

From AdAge Digital:

The major difference between Facebook and Google+ is that instead of having a massive friend list, users collect each other into groups — called “Circles” — like family, work, and friends. This context has been missing from Facebook and has gotten some people in hot water — for example, those who post their wild weekend party photos that may be seen by family and colleagues. And on Google+, there are no friend requests. People do not need to agree to be friends with one another and can view updates without sharing their own.

From paidContent:

Circles: This seems a clear poke at Facebook’s groups and lists features, which are not the easiest thing in the world to use. Google has created a way to let Google+ users create groups of friends, colleagues, and family members that’s almost exactly like creating a new folder on your hard drive and adding pictures. Simply drag the name of a friend or connection into a newly created circle to assign them to that group, and when you create a new post, you can select which circle will receive that update, allowing you to share the latest off-color South Park clip with your close friends (but not your uptight boss) and your goofy family reunion pictures with those who won’t judge (and not that first date that you’re hoping will turn into a second).

From Mashable:

Circles is well-implemented. It’s far easier than creating a Twitter List or a Facebook Friend List. The drag-and-drop functionality is a welcome addition, and the cute animations that appear when you perform actions give the product personality. That doesn’t necessarily mean users will take the time to create friend groups.

From Wired Epicenter:

Parts of it certainly seem to appear similar to what we’ve seen before. One significant component is a continuous scroll called “the stream” that’s an alternative to Facebook’s news feed — a hub of personalized content. It has a companion called “Sparks,” related to one’s specified interests. Together they are designed to be a primary attention-suck of Google users. Google hopes that eventually people will gravitate to the stream in the same way that members of Facebook or Twitter constantly check those continuous scrolls of personalized information.

The Buzz disaster came just as Facebook began to look like it may make good on its goal of signing up every human on the planet — creating a treasure trove of information inaccessible to Google’s servers. People at Google began to worry that Facebook could even leverage the information its users shared to create a people-centric version of search that in some cases could deliver more useful results than Google’s crown jewel of a search engine.

From Silicon Alley Insider:

Apparently, Facebook got wind of the Google+ feature, now called Circles, that allows users to share information with only select groups of friends, rather than their entire Facebook network.

Mark Zuckerberg took a personal interest in meeting this threat from Google, and put a team on it last summer. The result: Facebook Groups, which launched in October.

It doesn’t seem to have taken off — at least not like hugely popular features like Facebook Photos — which suggests maybe this is a solution to a problem most people don’t worry about. That doesn’t bode well for Circles.