The battle has begun some said a year ago in regard to Facebook and Google. As of late it has escalated, everything is about the war of the user. It used to be about owning the user’s choice of start page, traffic and choice of web browser. To some extent that is still viable but the perspective has broadened. It is about owning the insight to the user’s behavior and the information of how they navigate to acquire sought information. Google is an advert and exposure machinery, they are all about making money from navigation. It has been an obvious choice to use Google as your main search engine since its introduction, they completely swept away the legs of competitors such as Altavista and Yahoo. Even if they do still exist at some extent, they are not even close to Google’s dominating position. Initiatives such as Bing have come later on to try and take Google by their horns with intermediate results. Google are still number one. So why is the feud with Facebook important? In regard to what I just said, the battle is about having the information of how the user navigate in order to earn money from exposure. It is not a secret that Google has lost money on exposure due to user traffic increasing dramatically at social media where Facebook is a dominating force. Until now, social media and search engines have lived their separate lives but that time is nearing an end.
Obviously, everything is about from where the users of the future will choose to find their information. Facebook is a smorgasbord of opportunities for the user with a clear incentive to keep the user at their site as long as possible. They have recently made their messaging-system into an e-mail. And the natural step would be have a search engine in Facebook. It would be the natural step for Zuckerberg to have users reason such as: “Why should I leave Facebook? I have everything I need right here.” Google’s strength are not only their search engine, it is Google documents and G-mail, standardized tools for many companies today while Facebook is almost a natural way these days to follow, connect and communicate with your friends. Making the messaging-system into an e-mail was an obvious competitive tactics in order to make the Facebook-toolbox as versatile as Google’s. And Google+ comes as no surprise. It is for seeing to that you can have everything at Google as well.
Who will win in the end? A social media providing search engines, e-mail, documents and calendars? Or a search engine with documents, calendars adding a social media service? We’ll see shall we? Both Facebook and Google have their respective clear advantages over one another. Facebook’s is by far, the large database of users. Using a social media means you need your network to use the same channel as you do. It loses its reason otherwise. Google will meet a tremendous challenge in convincing, in medium, 80% of every Facebook’er to start using Google+ as well. Unless approximately 70 – 80% of your friends are found within the network, it will lose its purpose. Especially if they actually are present in other channels such as Facebook. Google however have the business consumers closer at hand. It is harder for companies to change to Facebook as their main platform when being used to G-mail and Google Docs. Surely, Google+ will become a more professional networking service as a direct result to that. In fact, LinkedIn which recently had a 110% growth in value on the day of their stock market introduction, could prove to be a great new addition to Google in order to refine their new setup of products. Facebook might be in trouble would Google+ be able to combine the professional and private social media networking service into Google due to the companies given loyalty. Users are always more tangible when it comes to their interests. It is about both what is hot and new but also what gives good enough value.
We all know how it is when you log into Facebook. Hundreds of status updates, few of them being relevant or interesting. Google+ have realised this and empowered you to easier define the groups for where parts of your network belongs. It is called circles. If you want a circle for old colleagues from your former employer only, make a circle for that.
When you share your status updates it works pretty much like Facebook. You can share a location, upload images or videos but the circles are apparent even in this stage. Directly as you want to share your status, you can decide which of the circles that should be applicable for that specific message. This means you could become more targeted in your approach and would therefore be able to combine both a professional and private perspective in the same package. Given that Google Docs, Calendar and G-mail is logged into at the same time as you log into Google+, you get the feeling of a powerful toolbox, fulfilling your needs. Well done, Google.
The most innovative part about Google+ is the “hangout”-function. You can easily just log into a “hangout”. A hangout is a video conference streaming center where you directly state and define which circles should be allowed to see you are logged into one. So let us say you want a video conference with every employee at your company for example. You could easily create a circle where all those people are added called <Employer name>, make a hangout and stating this circle will be allowed to see you are logged in. The video and sound quality is very good also, much better than Windows live messenger’s. Microsoft and Steve Ballmer must be nervous. I know I would be. Someone else who should be nervous are Skype. Or maybe they could use this situation in convincing Facebook to work together somehow. Zuckerberg should be interested. I know I would be.
Even if I see many advantages and as you see from my reasoning believe Google+ have a fantastic potential, I believe it is to early to say what this will all lead to. Are hangouts enough to lure the masses? I am uncertain. Google+ is in an early stage and I predict that the company which succeeds in their packaging the best, will become the ultimate winner. It is not only about having documents, calendars, photos and e-mail. It is about how all these functions and services work together and the flexibility for the user when doing so. At the moment, Google docs, G-mail, photos, reader, Google+ and more feels a bit separated. I don’t get the feeling of those products being “one single service”. Maybe that is the strategy however. It is all about winning the user.
More to come.