20 August 2012

Google Plus – Does Google have Facebook on the Run?

Google Plus

Is Google Plus hard on the heels of Facebook?

Google Plus

It’s been awhile since Google launched its aggressive assault on the social networking market with its imaginatively-titled service, Google Plus. Shortly before celebrating its first birthday it hit a user milestone, with 250 million global accounts.

Cynics point out that many of these are merely existing Google users. Their accounts were automatically upgraded after the service went live and who don’t interact with it at all.

Still, it’s perhaps time to look back and gauge whether the apparently-infallible Google juggernaut has continued its winning streak with this latest innovation. Or whether its self-bestowed tagline “real-life sharing rethought for the web” has fallen on deaf ears.

On a superficial level, Google Plus is certainly rife with the kind of buzzwords likely to get social network devotees all of a lather. Buzzwords such as Google Circles, Google Hangouts, Ripples and Sparks. While these terms have hardly entered the lexicon so far, the features they offer are imaginative enough to differentiate them from the competition, just.

Google Circles, for instance, allows the user to ‘drag and drop’ chosen contacts into different social groups. It veered away from Facebook’s rather more one-size-fits-all ‘wall’ concept. Google Hangout is a forum for group video chat. It hosts up to an impressive 10 people at one time. Google Ripples allows you to track how quickly, and by what route, one of your postings spreads around the world after being uploaded. Google Sparks, meanwhile, is a new front-end to the traditional Google Search facility. It’s used for finding and sharing topics which, well, ‘spark’ your interest. Accessed via a pull-down menu from the search screen, you can share your Sparks links with other people and track which topics are trending around the world.

Now, such twirly bells and whistles are all very well and good but it would count for little if the interaction was as user-friendly as doing needlework in boxing gloves. Fortunately for the boffins at Google, early response to the site has been a cautious thumbs-up. From both a technological and philosophical standpoint; it’s quite nice to know that Facebook finally has a social network rival. Not in the form of a flash-in-the-pan fly-by-night but a true 800lb silver-back gorilla.

All Google’s best efforts cannot overcome one major problem, however: Facebook’s head-start. Since its launch in 2004, Mark Zuckerberg’s monster has clocked up around a billion registered users. For now, Google Plus will remain very much the little brother.

You may still be pondering opening a Google Plus account

Here are 10 facts our Google Expert has put together to get you started.

  • On its first day of release, the Google Plus app became the most popular free application in the Apple app store.
  • Roughly seven-out-of-ten early adopters of Google Plus have been male.
  • The most popular age bracket of users is 25-34.
  • Google Plus is not technically blocked in China. Although it’s made to run so slowly by the authorities that it’s as good as useless.
  • The second biggest market for Google Plus after America is India.
  • Despite being 18s-and-overs only at launch, the Google+ lower limit has since been reduced to 13.
  • Pseudonyms are frowned on at Google Plus. Real identities are the norm.
  • Google Plus is the company’s fourth attempt to crack the social networking market. First came Google Circles, Google Buzz and then Google Friend Connect.
  • Google Plus Hangout has been used in a virtual interview by none other than American president Barrack Obama. Obama uses it to answer questions about the State of the Union posed by citizens.
  • There remains no official way to automatically import Facebook contacts into Google Plus.