Can Google+ beat Facebook? That’s the question I’ve been asked again and again as early adopters are beginning to understand what Google+ has to offer its users. A full analysis of its potential won’t be possible for some time, as features are just not beginning to really take form and bugs are being worked out. In order to “beat” Facebook, Google+ would have to have a larger user base using it as their primary social network. That’s a tall order, considering Facebook’s 750 million users. The fact is, Google+ has the potential of “beating” Facebook, if they concentrate on a few key points moving forward.
First, Circles is an incredible feature that allows you to create groups of contacts in order to allow you to decide who in your social graph receives specific updates. This can come in handy when you’re sending out information to your close friends you wouldn’t necessarily want your parents to know, and so on and so forth. Where it may concern some users, LockerGnome’s own Kelly Clay included, is in the clique atmosphere it can foster. Even if you are sharing information with someone, that doesn’t mean they have to share it back to you. In fact, you could be missing information shared with a special few and not even know it. This kind of interaction isn’t preferred by some social network users, and it all comes down to personal preference. When it comes down to it, Circles is the most defining feature of Google+. This system determines who sees what. When they open their doors and the network begins to fill up with non-geeks, we’ll have a much better idea as to whether or not the perceived clique atmosphere will drive traffic away, or be met with a shrug.
Sparks is, at the present moment, not entirely useful. The information it provides is somewhat accurate, but that doesn’t stop completely unrelated information from propagating on a regular basis. The difference between it and the iGoogle home page is that you don’t have the inherent ability to select individual sources to pull from. With some work, it could become slightly more usable. It may be the perfect solution for casual Internet users that don’t have a lot of time to check various sources for the daily scoop on something they’re interested in. This isn’t a killer feature, and it probably won’t have much impact on users switching over from Facebook. If anything, this is an extra that is worth keeping an eye on for the future.
Chris Pirillo is the founder of the tech blogging network, Lockergnome and previously served as host of TechTV’s Call for Help show. Chris’s insightful and entertaining how to videos will now be featured in the PC Pitstop newsletters and highlighted at techtalk.pcpitstop.com and pcpitstop.com.