A funny thing happened on my way to a recent Google search. While logged into Gmail, I performed a search for Inbound Marketing Agency, and saw the +1 icon appear next to every individual search result. And just like that - a website receiving over a billion page views per month was able to incorporate "social" into search.
On Tuesday, Google announced its first robust foray (read: Buzz fizzled) into social media with Google+ - an ambitious effort to allow people, rather than algorithms, to organize and curate information on the web.
There are a number of reasons, both in philosophy and product features, that could position Google+ to truly become a Facebook killer:
- A Burning Platform - The one thing Google forgot in building a company that generates $30 Billion a year in revenue - is people. Ultimately, people are the one that place a final value on information - not algorithms or inbound links. With the rise of Facebook, Google became keenly aware of the lack of the personal component in search.
- Enterprise-Wide Scope - The Google+ effort involved 18 current Google products and 30 project teams. It was a top down initiative led by the vision of executives Bradley Horowitz and Vic Gundotra and not an isolated skunkworks project.
- Segmentation - The Circles feature of Google+ allows users to target the information they share, almost like combining Facebook and LinkedIn into one tool. A key to Circles is the open network. Unlike Facebook, if I want to share pictures with people not in Google+, I'll be able to do so via email. I can't do that with Facebook.
- Instant Picture Upload - In the current world of Facebook, uploaded pictures serve as a foundation of investment into the social network. In the rapidly growing smartphone world - Google+ will offer an instant upload feature that will automatically place your photo in the cloud. The 500,000 Android activations a day will undoubtedly facilitate this functionality.
- Privacy - Having learned from its Google Buzz privacy missteps and from Facebook's errors, Google is being very clear about privacy in Google+.
Whether or not Google will be able to topple Facebook remains to be seen. Will users deeply invested with friends and photos in Facebook see the value of switching to Google? Could Facebook end up as the new MySpace? Or will a smaller, more nimble Facebook organization quickly add segmentation features while a growing Google becomes weighed down by antitrust inquiries?