Hopefully. After one week of playing with it, I'm impressed. The ease of keeping your profile secure from certain people and being able to easily see exactly what information is displayed to who, as well as the addition of "Hang outs" and a few other features is great.
Using the exclusive invite-only style of marketing that was the halmark of Gmail's launch has seen the social media geeks (like me) feeling more special than we should about using it during the "test phase" and it has helped ensure we all trumpet on about how cool the network is and how everyone should be on there. Indeed, the system has been broken two or three times since launch due to oversubscription causing problems for their servers, which has meant even people with invites could not access the system unless they were quick. This bodes well for the future of the network.
A social network is only as good as its members, however. The analogy of being the first and only person to own a fax machine rings true. One of my first posts stated that I would only move completely over from Facebook if at least 50 percent of my ex-girlfriends, or my crush also moved over to Google +. In short, everyone will need a reason to move over, but the reason will be the same for everyone; the people they want to engage with. The fact the uptake of the network has surpassed even Google's expectations perhaps points equally to Google's burnt fingers over their previous attempts (Buzz was a fizzer, Wave washed out) as well as the enthusiasm people have for a genuine competitor to Facebook.
So, what is it like? A person I follow on Twitter described it as "Facebook without its clothes on", and from a layout point of view it does look very similar, albeit a stripped out version. You can stalk my public profile here to see for yourself, or go sign up here (if the sign up is working).
The two main advantages from my point of view (wearing my consumer hat now) is that it is very easy to control what content is displayed to who, via the 'Circles'. I have six circles set up at the moment: friends, followers, workmates, colleagues, family and ex-girlfriends. Every time I post any content (text, photos etc) I have to choose which circles can view it. There are also options to post content to everyone on the web (public, like Twitter), or "extended circles" (friends of friends). This makes it incredibly easy to make sure my ex-girlfriends only ever see my highlights reel, while my workmates only ever see me sober. Although Facebook does have the option to split your friends into groups with different security settings, it is a bit of a pain in the butt to do this and generally only the social media geeks get it sorted.
Another cool feature of Google + is "Hangouts". This is video chat for multiple people. It can also be used as a means of broadcasting events like conferences, concerts, your stupid dog singing along to Bernard Fanning, whatever—all with the added interactivity of being able to talk back and get involved. The coolness of this feature has already been countered by the addition of Skype video calling to the Facebook chat function, but the quick roll out of this shows how seriously Facebook is taking the Google + threat.
Although I have an iPhone, I have been told that the way Google + can be used with an Android powered phone is fantastic, particularly in regards to photo uploading. I can't wait to see how an iPhone app will work.
Currently Google + is only set up for regular consumers (not business), but they have worked with several companies (Ford, Mashable etc) to build a few test company profiles which will be rolled out in the next two weeks, and they have received several thousand applications from companies to be included in further testing. However, in an earlier release Google recommended companies hold off until full support is offered in the "next few months". It will be interesting to see how these company pages can integrate the suite of other Google services, including AdWords, Adsense, maps, YouTube etc. But the scope from a marketing point of view is huge. When you consider the vast information available to marketers currently using Google, the mouth waters at what this platform will allow (marketer's hat on now).
So, is it a Facebook killer? I hope so, as I am someone who values being able to control who sees what information about me. However, it will require a quick uptake from the cool kids to see a major shift from what is currently the largest social networking site in the world.
But the future looks promising. This blog post speculates that as of July 10, there were already over six million users on Google +. This kind of growth (if accurate) in just over a week is fantastic, but it will need to be sustained before we can start calling Google + a Facebook killer. Until then, I will keep my fingers crossed, keep posting about issues and try my hardest to break it during the test period. Good luck Google.
- Have you tried Google +? Would you move from Facebook?
UPDATE: If you want to move your contacts across to Google+, Anthony Gardiner shows you how.