Every day, a battle is being waged in cyberspace. The prize? Your eyeballs, and your wallet. Google became an early dominant force online when it mastered search, allowing users to sift through vast tracts of resources on the Internet to find tiny nuggets of information and trivia, accompanied by customised ads based on those searches.
With the coming of Web 2.0 and social networking, a whole new layer of online customisation and interaction revolving around interpersonal connections and the sharing of interests became prevalent. The web evolved into a much more personal and social place. Following early social media ventures, current leaders such as Facebook and Twitter proved to be the real trailblazers in the field. But Google hasn’t been resting on its laurels either. It’s tried to introduce social networking features of its own in recent years. Google Wave, a real-time messaging platform and “communication and collaboration tool” that was purported to make real-time interactions more seamless, never gained traction, and development was dropped a year after its launch.
Buzz, an add-on to Gmail that allows for the sharing of online content such as updates, photos and videos, was launched in 2010 to a backlash of privacy concerns, and has languished. In the wake of these unsuccessful attempts, Google’s next foray into social networking, kept hush hush for some time, was carefully planned and executed.
Google+ (Google Plus), initially offered only to select individuals, launched to much word-of-mouth clamour in late June. Like Gmail, these early users of Google+ could in turn invite a handful of their friends. Not since the launch of Gmail in 2004 had there been such a buildup of anticipation and air of exclusivity surrounding the rollout of a Google product. The initial invite-only service inflated perceived demand, and the gates to Google+ gradually inched wider, until eventually virtually anyone seeking to “join the project” could do so.
Google+ includes most features that users have come to expect from social networks, such as a viewable profile, status messages, group messaging and the ability to share photos and other media. There’s tight integration with other Google products, such as Google Maps and Google Talk for the syncing of contacts. An Android app announced soon after the launch offers Google+ features on the go, including the ability to upload photographs taken with your phone to your profile.
The primary features of Google+ include Circles, Hangouts and Sparks. Circles, the logic used to organise one’s social network, is similar to Lists in Facebook, but depicted in a clearer, more logical fashion. It’s Google’s attempt to ‘fix’ the problem of online sharing by attempting to match “the subtlety and substance of real life interactions”, according to Vic Gundotra, Senior VP of Engineering at Google, in an official blog post introducing the project. In real life, most people don’t talk or behave in the same way towards family, close friends and co-workers, so why should it be any different online? The rationale behind Circles is to thus allow for specifiable, selective sharing with different circles.
Hangouts is an integrated video chat feature that allows the user to chat with more than one person at a time, with a simple and easy-to-use interface. It’s like having a virtual room in which you can casually chat or hang out with one or more of your friends in real time.
Sparks is a feature designed to help Google+ deliver to you a feed of content from around the Internet that you may find interesting, but may not find on your own otherwise. It is based on a pre-selected list of interests that you can add to anytime. In a similar way to Interests in Facebook, it is an attempt to deliver targeted and relevant content to you directly in your Google+ stream, in an easy to share and comment-on format, in over 40 languages.
Early indications showed that Google+ went down extremely well with users, with numbers surpassing the ten million mark only a few weeks following its launch – certainly a much better showing than either the Wave or the Buzz. But now that the initial excitement of early adopters has died down, it will be interesting to see if Google+ can maintain enough growth and interest to truly challenge some of its competitors such as Facebook and Twitter, who will likely be coming up with new features in order to ramp up their efforts to stay relevant within the constantly shifting landscape of social media. The winner of this battle will hopefully be the high frequency end users of social networks – not forgetting the companies that advertise to those very users.
|filman santiago on 19 August 2012 ,03:31 |
I do have a Google account now but honestly, I am not active on it. Simply because, Facebook works great for me. And I hate the fact that Google can't just focus on other field which they are really into it. So many negative stories emerge nowadays, aiming to put a bad image of Facebook but I don't think this will topple Facebook's supremacy in the world of social network. As what I have been telling to my friends that we should not end our support to facebook and I don't want facebook to have that same fate of friendster back then. http://etc.soundsfunny.ws/index.php/2012/08/are-we-seeing-a-big-downturn-of-facebook-next-year/
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