The path to success for Google+

On Google+ I stumbled upon an interesting theory by Nova Spivack about how the social media landscape will look like. He argues that Google+ is a very different service from Twitter and Facebook and that the social media landscape is going to divide in different territories. Facebook is for social networking, LinkedIn is for business networking, Google+ is for knowledge sharing and Twitter is for notifications, so it goes. I concur with his thoughts, but contemplating it over, I feel that Google+ is a sort of hybrid of Twitter and Facebook, just like Mark Cahill points out. It seems to balance both a social network and an (organised) information network. It organises information but also includes communication and collaboration (e.g., Hangouts and Sparks).

So could Google+ take over both Twitter and Facebook? Maybe. One of the reasons people are on Facebook is because of media sharing. Facebook is the largest photo sharing website, although it might not be the best one. They have consumers who might never going to adopt Google+: your close friends and family. However, as also Nova Spivack says, “if G+ integrates tightly with YouTube they could have an advantage at least in the video sharing category. However, that would be a strange mix: G+ is not really designed for the same use case as Facebook. Facebook is for public sharing while G+ is actually the opposite of that. It doesn’t even really let you push something to the Public, only to people who follow you (circles). If you share something with Public in G+ it does not get pushed to the public, but they can find it on your profile if they ever want to search you. Quite the opposite of YouTube, where every video is public and that’s the whole point of posting something to YouTube”. In the end, the real name of the game is going to be user-experience.

I think the real name of the game is going to be user-experience. Who is going to make a place that feels most like “home” to consumers? I don’t think it’s going to be Google. They haven’t succeeded at this yet. They may have better features, better sharing etc., but the user-experience feels like I’m in George Lucas’s THX 1138.

Google+ (and all of Google) is just so clean and white – too clean. Like a formal living room with white rugs or white furniture, where kids and pets are specifically not supposed to play.

Google+ feels more like my office than my home, if you know what I mean. It’s not personal enough. It doesn’t let me express who I am other than through typing and attaching pictures. I need to be able to skin it, to format it, to change the layout — like I can do on my blog, or a home page, before I would really think of it as my home.

Facebook hasn’t done much in the way of allowing user skins or customization either. But at least it’s a bit messy — it doesn’t feel so planned out. Google+ didn’t grow organically like Facebook, it was hatched all once from a test tube.

The messiness of Facebook’s user experience may, paradoxically, be what keeps people there. It feels less formal. Less official, less serious. It’s a place to relax, not to think deep thoughts.

My guess is people will rather hang out and relax in a place that is more like a bar than a Mensa convention.

As William Gibson once put it on Twitter:

I was never interested in Facebook or MySpace because the environment seemed too top-down mediated. They feel like malls to me. But Twitter actually feels like the street. You can bump into anybody on Twitter.

Well, considering that Google+ is a hybrid, the path to success for them is to be a best of breed by maybe trying to be like an outdoor market or grand bazaar. For instance, I think they should allow us to use nicknames or anonymous accounts, but also allow us to identify ourselves (e.g., verified accounts). Which makes me wonder: can such contrary ideas exist together in one system?

At first, I thought of G+ as kind of a new Friendfeed. It all looks awfully similar. But when you look at the user base, you see that it is much more democratized. It is not just about early adopters and technorati. It seems to gain traction easily. In a way, G+ is Facebook and Twitter in a sense as it has the same features and capabilities. But when I hear people saying that G+ is much easier for photo sharing, that it emphasizes privacy issues and that it obliterates the need of friending, than I think there is a big chance for them to win the game. A better user experience, together with tight integration with other Google products (gmail, calendar, et cetera) will benefit the user. Google+ can only succeed in replacing Facebook, if we can port our data to Google+. I bet that is not going to be happening and that Google+ is just going to be a Facebook alternative.

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