Steven Levy, Wired:
Google, the world’s largest search company, is formally making its pitch to become a major force in social networking. The product it announced Tuesday is called Google+, and observers might wonder whether it’s simply one more social effort by a company that’s had a lousy track record in that field to date.
The reigning king of social networks right now is probably Facebook. Who knows? Perhaps Google will finally do something right with social media. But for those of us so firmly entrenched in Facebook and actually enjoy it, it may be hard for Google to entice us away. After all, people go where their friends go. But it seems there will very little connection made to Facebook.
The inability of Google+ users to instantly import their Facebook connections underlies the biggest immediate challenge to the product: Like all social networks, its value is directly related to the degree that one’s friends and contacts are also participating. Beginning a social network is always a huge risk because of the chicken-and-egg problem — the whole thing doesn’t work unless a user’s friends and contacts are on board. Otherwise the place risks becoming an “Emptytown” where people try it, are unable to connect with anyone and then forget about it.
A little history: Orkut, Buzz, Wave. How many of them do you actually still use, if you even started at all? I was never really bothered about Orkut, since Friendster and then Facebook dominated the social media sphere. Buzz couldn’t outdo Twitter and didn’t seem to bring much that was new to the table. Wave had some exciting ideas and functions, but it ultimately wasn’t clear as to its direction and was at times confusing to use.
Two major questions for Google:
- Why would new users pick Google+ over Facebook?
- Why would current users of social networks, many of whom already have Facebook and/or Twitter accounts, start using Google+?
Whether or not it takes off, I’m gonna be one of the early adopters, if only because I like testing new things. Let’s see how well Google does this time. Apparently it’s currently in a limited field trial.
Update: Early reactions have been positive.