Having played around with Google+ for a couple of days, I can see that from my perspective it solves a very definite problem (or at least it can if it catches on).
Currently, I have three scenarios for sharing stuff:
- I use Twitter for stuff I want to share with the widest possible audience – such as my blog posts which are basically in the public domain.
- I use Facebook for stuff which I don’t want to share with the world but only with people I know.
- Finally, I use Email to share stuff which is meant only for close friends or family – typically pictures of family
With Google+ I can do all three from one place.
Public posts from Google+ are visible on the web to anyone. And anyone can subscriber to them by adding me, I don’t have to ‘Accept’ their requests for this to happen (though I can block people if I want) – this is Twitter-like behavior.
Posts restricted to a circle of friends or family can be seen only by the intended audience, which serves the other two scenarios.
This is nice and gives me a lot of control, but it does create some additional complexity. I wonder how many people will end up accidentally make something ‘Public’ when they meant to share it with their friends only. A lot depends on this and on whether the majority of the users ‘get’ the scenarios and when to use what. Once you get used to it though, it is very useful.
Facebook, of course can replicate this behavior. Technically there is nothing here which cannot be replicated. But Facebook’s millions of users have gotten used to the Facebook way of doing things and might baulk if Facebook changes itself too much to add the functionality from Google+. This is the classic first-mover trap: your very popularity means that you are trapped into your current offering and can’t change it too much – Microsoft has had to deal with it since forever. In the past Facebook has proven quite good at updating and changing it’s interface as it evolved so they might not worry about this too much. But that was when they had no competition. Now that they have competition, a big interface change might drive users to the rival camp.
At the very least though, Google+ shows that the social media space is far from done. There is still a lot of room for innovation. In the final analysis, competition will be good for the users as both services will improve. So sit back and enjoy the show, it should be an absorbing battle.