Google +, Part II: The Facebook Strikes Back (Sort Of)
Google Plus has everyone excited, but can it slay the giant? And what is Facebook doing about all this?
As far as we can tell, Mr. Zuckerberg and Co. are staying quiet. Their announcement of video calling seemed to be a veiled shot at Google+’s Hangouts, but that’s all. However, Facebook may be wisely waiting for Google+ to self-destruct. Let’s break it down by the biggest features and issues the two are competing over:
PRIVACY: This is the big one, the reason everyone hates Facebook and many have left it. Google+ automatically makes user information private, unless they opt in to going public (the opposite of tons of other sites). But already, Google is under fire for randomly kicking some users and corporate pages off (but not others), suggesting that your identity isn’t as safe and secret as you might think.
CIRCLES: Google promises this feature will revolutionize how you sort the info and people on your profile, but is it new at all? “Facebook has had this feature forever…it’s called Groups,” writes Shea Bennett at AllFacebook.com. “And nobody uses it. Why would it be any different on Google?” Also, as Peter Pachal at PC Magazine says, Google Circles is “tedious,” and misses the point that people don’t always fit into neatly organized categories.
NUMBERS: Reports say Google+ hit 10 million users in just 16 days! It took Facebook over two years to do that. But online research company Hitwise finds that the site received only 1.8 million visits from July 10-16. Even if every one of those visits was a unique view from a user of the site, that’s still a small fraction; and more likely, those visits include lots of repeat views and visitors not registered with the site.
So how many Google+ users are actually using it? Not many, it seems. Remember, Google Buzz had a huge start too, but quickly disappeared. Meanwhile, for all the site’s faults, hundreds of millions of Facebook users log in every day.
Other big features on Google+ are getting pretty unqualified praise, including Hangouts and the site’s Apps for iPhone and Android.
At the moment, it looks like Google’s advantage is more hype than reality. No matter how great the features are, social networking is all about numbers and convenience, and people will have to see all of their friends and family migrating before they go through the trouble of maintaining multiple profiles or switching sites.
To paraphrase The Social Network: you know what’s cooler than 20 million users? A BILLION. And Google might have to hit that mark just to survive, because anything less than making Facebook obsolete might not cut it.