The great battles of the early internet era saw search engines slugging it out to serve as the gateway to the web. That conflict has largely subsided, and Google reigns supreme, though Microsoft continues to push its relatively new Bing fairly hard. Instead, the war has moved to the field of social media, where Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook is king. After some uncharacteristic failures, Google has introduced its next foray into social media with the new Google+.
Bloomberg explains that the threat from Facebook has actually proven substantial, despite Google’s continuing dominance of internet searches. The issue stems from time spent on the site, since searches quickly lead users away from Google, but social networking takes pains to include as broad an experience as possible, to keep users on site. Following this model, Facebook took 13 percent of total hours spent online this May as opposed to only 10 percent for Google.
To avoid this issue, Google+ sets up a set of individually created groups known as circles that users can organize friends into however they like. Pictures or posts can be shared with one group, all of them or conceivably none of them. Privacy settings of these circles can be individually adjusted and friends need not know what groups they are actually included in.
“A clear and extremely welcome difference between Google+ and Facebook is that G+ treats us as adults able to determine our own relationships and sharing preferences, in contrast to Facebook that treats us like sheep to be fleeced via pressures to overshare,” Lauren Weinstein of People for Internet Responsibility wrote on a Google+ post, according to CNET.
The other major advantage Google+ boasts is strong interconnectivity with the company’s other popular products, including access to Gmail address books for finding friends.
“Instead of coming directly at Facebook, which would be suicidal, I think they’ve recognized that they have to grow out from a niche,” Forrester Research analyst Josh Bernoff told Bloomberg. “In that context this has a chance to be a small success.”