Two weeks ago Google started rolling out invites for its awaited social product Google+. The impact it has had is quite big taking into consideration that the number of people to use the system is restricted. It has been so big that some analysts state it has added some US$20bn to Google’s market cap in just one week.
But, why is Google+ so important?
The web has evolved from what was originally a relatively static system of web-pages as a gateway to information, in a way in which it replicated the traditional unidirectional broadcasting of information from traditional media, through the development of tools empowering individuals to produce content of all sorts; music, writing, pictures, movies… sort it out and publish it, to changing the way people communicate and access information nowadays, thus evolving into some sort of neuronal system that can be neither analyzed nor monetized in traditional ways.
The above stated new ability to share and comment, paved the way for the appearance of social networks and collaborational tools, of which Facebook is obviously the leader with its more than 750 million users. In the way a lot of that information sharing now happens within Facebook’s walled garden, Google has increasingly found itself in a position where it no longer has access to large chunks of data and behavior dynamics out there, thus seeing its pseudo monopolistic data gathering systems loss importance, or at least foresee a future in which Google would neither be so important in our everyday lives, or becomes somehow redundant in the way information could be classified and accessed through other services, Facebook in this case.
Bearing the above in Mind, Google has taken steps to really tackle the problem, and, starting from a substitution in its leadership, from Schmidt to Page, from a manager to a warring CEO, from grown up to bold agitation, it has changed the pace for the company and refocused a large part of its activity to come up with a solution to check Facebook’s advance. After a year of coding and preparation, Google+ has been launched.
Many people argue that the new service will not dethrone Facebook due to very many reasons which can be summarized in; a) FB’s outstanding number of current users, b) FB’s first mover advantage and its early adoption as a mainstream standard. Anyhow, the basic difference (and this is an obvious hyper-simplification of such a complex issue) is the ability to adapt user privacy an information sharing with different circles depending on the nature of relationships, thus up-scaling the privacy options In a way in which FB can’t offer as of today.
There are those who argue that the vast majority of FB users never tinker with their privacy settings (70%) and that those who effectively do so are only a small portion (30%) of FB’s users, hence, Google + would only be really appealing to those relatively tech savvy users that actually do yearn for an upgrade in privacy.
Well, for me this is the wrong way to analyze the situation.
The fact is that, if Google+ has the capacity to attract a large number of that 30% (some 250 million users… not bad!) it will have shown two things; a) that Facebook can be attacked to a certain degree of success, and b) that Facebook’s growth trend can be changed as the unique valid social standard.
Let’s not forget that Google + has just launched, and that it will be enriched by the feedback and user behavioral data to be harvested from its users, therefore will probably be fine tuned in the upcoming months and years and become an even more efficient tool.
So, the important thing is to see whether if Google + can change generally accepted perception of Facebook being unassailabe or not, and then wait and see what impact this has on Google’s market cap and Facebook’s run to the IPO. FB is obviously going to gear up and defend its hill, and the next 24 months promise to be fascinating in the way the Microsoft-Apple, or Android – iOS wars have proved to be.