Google+: A “social” assault on Facebook & Twitter

It’s no secret that Google wants to be social. It attempted at doing so numerous times already. First came orkut which failed to catch on here in the US, then came Google Buzz which didn’t seem to catch on anywhere. Then came the short-lived Google Wave, which was the biggest disaster of them all. But Google didn’t rest there. And who can blame them, with Facebook and Twitter quickly taking over the web as a social medium and gaining users faster then anyone could ever predict.

Announced last week after seemingly endless leaks, Google+ represents a major push for the software giant. The service began showing itself to a small group of tech “hipsters” via a (very) limited invitation system, as a dark gray bar across the top of various Google sites such as and Gmail. A “+You” button on the far left of the bar activates the service and various other features can be activated on the far right of the bar.

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One week later (earlier this morning), Google+ was declared one of the fastest-growing networks ever, having already reached 10 million users according to one estimate. This is amazing growth even for a giant such as Google, as Mashable reported: “We cannot remember any social network reaching so many members so quickly after its release.”

So what’s the secret to the success of Google+? Why are the same people that ignored all the search giants previous attempts now all jumping in head first? To answer this, we first have to look at where Facebook and Twitter are lacking.

As social human beings, we differentiate between people we connect with, whether we’re teenagers, twenty-somethings, married, or retired. We don’t want to share the same part of our lives with say, our inner circle group of friends, our new acquaintances, our parents, and our boss. This is where “Circles” comes into play. This Google+ features makes users differentiate between exactly who they are adding to their list right off the bat.

Google+ starts you off with four Circles: Friends, Family, Acquaintances, and Following. The first three are there to do exactly what Facebook doesn’t: separate the different types of people you socialize (or don’t socialize) with. The last one simply takes on Twitter by allowing you to follow people who you find interesting, but don’t necessarily have any plans on communicating or sharing anything with. And best of all, making a new Circle is as easy as two clicks, so you’re not tied how Google thinks you should live your life.

So what does this mean to Google shareholders? Well, in just one week of invite only activity, investors added $20 billion to Google’s market cap. A Morgan Stanley downgrade on Friday, brought the total down to $15.8 billion because of doubts on whether Google will be able to capitalize on new products such as Google+, a problem both Facebook and Twitter have. But weather it’s $15.8 or $20 billion, this is a very impressive figure for a service that isn’t even in it’s infancy stages yet.

Here’s something else to keep in mind when thinking about the future of Google+: while Facebook has ~600 million users, Google is sitting on a staggering 1 billion users. That’s one sixth of the world’s population! So while Facebook, Twitter, and every other social website had to start from scratch at launch, this is not something Google+ has on it’s list of problems. Not by a long shot!


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