Google may be an enormous network of information, literally out to take over the Internet now that they’ve armed themselves with a social platform as well. Facebook, however, has a huge head start with 750 million users worldwide.
1. Barriers to adoption
The cost of adopting a whole new social platform is incredibly daunting indeed. People interested in getting onto Goolge+ will still want to keep in contact with their Facebook friends – and how does one invite them to get onto Google+ since nobody keeps track of e-mail addresses of their Facebook friends? Despite the Facebook Fatigue, it’s even more tiring and tedious to keep track of Facebook and Google+ feeds and friends simultaneously.
Facebook’s attractions include games and fun apps, quizzes, polls and questions. Google+ has none of those at the moment. Facebook’s recent partnership with Skype also now allows free video chat, so Google’s video chat feature Hangouts is also no longer unique. In fact, it further solidifies Facebook’s position as the central platform for communication and connection. In another blow, Facebook engineers have already copied Google+’s Circles feature with Circle Hack.
And at the slow speed of adoption, keeping in mind that Google+ will probably take a long time to get those addictive games started (a key feature that attracted and retained Facebook users), it’s going to mean that users have to juggle using both networks.. or one. And it looks like Facebook might come out tops on that.
2. The missing addiction
The Circles feature does seem appealing at a first glance. It allows us to easily decide what we want to share with our different groups of contacts – acquaintances, colleagues, close friends, family, party buddies, and so on. No more drunk pictures will ever cross your boss’s monitor ever again. But this instant filtering of information unfortunately means a less juicy, less socially interesting feed. It’s no doubt that it’s a little thrilling to come across inappropriate pictures, links and status updates by Facebook friends who haven’t figured out Facebook Groups or how to use them to filter the content they share (the poor things…).
The original concept of Facebook was open sharing – which forms the basis of its addictive nature as users scramble for interesting, shameful or entertaining bits of information in the news feed. Facebook provides constant stimulation through all the updates (intended for you or not) from your friends, games, links and so on. In this way, it caters our human needs and motivations as outlined by social psychologist Abraham Maslow – hence our addiction to the pleasure it channels. It can fulfil some of our esteem needs (when we find out someone we dislike has put on a ton of weight); it can make us strive for greater achievement (upon seeing that a peer has bought a flashy new car); it gives us a sense of belonging as we ‘collect’ friends and receive insights into communities and lives; it empowers us to see people paying attention to what we say and do on the social network. The crucial question is: Will Google+ be able to make us feel as good as Facebook does?
It will be a long, uphill battle for Google+ to strive to be as popular as Facebook as it lacks the inherent mass appeal that Facebook started with. I see Google+ as possibly becoming similar to LinkedIn and Twitter, and coexisting with Facebook as another social platform for people to share and discuss specific content, such as industry-related or interest-related information. But it’s early days yet – I’m incredibly excited to see how it turns out!