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Google launches attack on Facebook with Google+

Google’s attempt to break into the social media market has finally been unveiled putting an end to months of speculation.

Rumours of Google’s third attempt first serviced back in March when technology blog The Next Web reported that the search giant was expected to launch “Google Circles” in May.  It was reported that “Google Circles” was set to be different from existing services by providing users with the ability to share photos, videos and messages with only the “most appropriate of social contacts in their lives, not with all contacts in bulk”.

Google+, despite being billed as the ‘new Facebook’, is aiming to reinvent the social media wheel by placing its core focus on making it easier for users to organise their friends, family members, work colleagues and others into small easy to manage intimate groups as opposed to everybody they know. The ‘Circles’ element remains at the heart of Google+, however comes with other features including ‘Hangouts’, ‘Sparks’ and ‘Huddles’.

  • ‘Huddles’ will allow users the ability to have a free-flowing chat with a specified group of friends to make it easier to plan a night out.
  • ‘Hangouts’ will provide people with the ability to notify friends when they are free to participate in a video catch up.
  • ‘Sparks’ are feeds of the things users are most passionate about.

Despite its difference, it is, however, still being billed as the first credible rival to Facebook since its inception in 2004, no doubt in part to the similarities it shares in design and basic functionality. However, despite media interest growing by the second, Google+ has launched with little fanfare or fuss, indicating that Google has clearly learned from the PR disaster that was Google Buzz last year.

However unlike Facebook, users don’t have to be friends with someone in order to receive their updates. Users can receive someone’s updates without having to share their own. There are also settings which allow users to view their page as their friends see it so they can ensure that there is no incriminating data visible to work colleagues or similar.

The big question then is – Is Google+ the new Facebook?

Whilst it may appear very similar on first glance, Google+ is not trying to emulate Facebook, instead it is trying to establish a new approach to the way we interact and share content online with our contacts in a different way.

But why is Google so determined to break into the market when Orkut has failed to make an impact in the western world and Buzz was a disaster?

Google claims, “online sharing is awkward. Even broken. And [they] aim to fix it…[by bringing] the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software. However whilst the service, which is currently only available to a select group of people, may be taking a fresh appoach to how we interact online it may be to little to late.

Facebook has a clear majority on user engagement at the moment with users looking at 103 billion pages and spending an average of 375 minutes on the site compared to Google’s 46.3 billion pages where users spent 231 minutes.

That said although Facebook may have over 700 million users around the world, support is dwindling. Earlier this month it was revealed that the social giant has seen users in the US and Britain fall for the second consecutive month in a row. In May alone 100,000 people are reported to have left the site.

Will Google+ be a success?

If Google can capitalise on Facebook’s falling popularity, convert existing Facebook users to the new platform and convince skeptics that its ‘Circles’ tool is a safe, secure and an overall more enriched and fulfilling social space for sharing content Google+ will be a big success.

That is, however dependent on how Google chooses to position its new service, its long-term growth and development strategy and its commitment to simplicity and security. If the service becomes too reliant on feeding off of users Gmail accounts and overcomplicates the user experience it will bomb likes its overcomplicated predecessor Buzz and fail to command an audience like its Orkut service, which since launching in 2004 has failed to attract a user base outside of India and Brazil.

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