The tech world is abuzz with news and reviews of Google+, search giant Google’s recent entry into the social media ring. Unless you’re one of the lucky 18 million or so current users who have received invitations to join (membership is by-invitation-only during the beta testing phase), first-hand information is hard to come by. But Google’s own statements and the reviews from numerous tech-savvy users have filled in a few of the gaps.
In general concept, Google+ is quite similar to the current king of the social network, Facebook. Both are set up as communication tools for their respective members, and both have business models that rely entirely on ad revenue. The early excitement centers around Google+’s Circles feature, an innovative and easy way to organize your relationships (family, friends, co-workers, clients, etc.), making it easy to share what you want only with those you want to see it. Google has been touting this feature as part of their focus on privacy, something that Facebook has had some PR trouble with in the past. In that vein, Google+ even allows users to take their data with them should they ever leave the service, another social networking first.
Now, these neat things aside, potentially the greatest advantage Google enjoys is the ability to integrate its existing suite of products and services, such as Gmail, Google Docs, and of course their mighty search engine, into Google+. This integration has the potential to shift the entire meaning of the social graph and how we use the internet. Powerful stuff, indeed.
Of course, Google still has to do plenty of things right to initiate such a shift, and Google+ is only three weeks old, after all. Facebook holds a 750 million-to-18-million user advantage so far, and that gives it a considerable amount of leverage. It remains to be seen, however, if only one social network will emerge or if the two can coexist. Stay tuned.