Whoo boy! Did I ever get railed in the comments for comparing Google+ to Facebook in my tour of the new service.
But if you don’t have an invite yet, take a look at these screenshots, and you’ll see it’s hard not to make the comparison.
I decided to take a moment and delve a little deeper into why I think Google+ won’t work in the long run:
Save for some minor improvements, Google+ offers nothing groundbreaking enough to drive the masses from Facebook. Almost every feature from “Circles” to “Streams” has a counterpart feature in Facebook.
The only notable exception is “Hangouts,” the feature that lets you host group video chats with your friends. It’s pretty cool, but again, I can’t see someone ditching Facebook just so they can video chat.
Yes, it will help that Google+ is baked into Google services like Gmail, but that still doesn’t mean all those users will suddenly stop using Facebook because there’s now a “+You” button at the top of their inboxes.
Everyone’s already on Facebook, and most don’t use Gmail. A social network is no good unless your friends are on it too.
As my colleague Dan Frommer put it: “It’s like Facebook with no people.”
Google+ even looks like Facebook, except with a whiter background. Frankly, it’s embarrassing for Google. If the way we share information on the web is as broken as Google says, it does no good to tweak a few of Facebook’s annoyances and pitch it as a revolution.
What I Do Like
All these criticisms don’t mean I think Google+ is a bad product. It’s actually well-designed and easy to use.
Facebook has its problems, and Google+ addresses many of them. The design is user-friendly. Circles are a brilliant way to group friends and actually kind of fun to make. And the mobile app for Android is a great way to get your mobile photos online instantly. (The upcoming iPhone app will do the same.)
Plus, Google gets a huge win for making privacy settings very easy to manage. Facebook, on the other hand, has yet to figure out how to implement clear privacy settings. (Check out my old post on it to see for yourself.)
At the end of the day, Google+ is a solid product on its own. But it’s not rich or new enough to get people to make the switch.
And there’s nothing keeping Facebook from making changes on the features that Google+ does better. It already has a 700 million user head start.
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