The early reviews of Google+ (including mine) have been almost uniformly positive — if not glowing. It is a good product, if not entirely original, with some standout features: Hangout, Circles.
In the week and a half since launch many people have enthusiastically embraced it, while others are busy trying to handicap it vs. Facebook and other social sites.
Does Google+ Justify All the Praise It Has Received?
But does Google+ and its Android app (which is good but not the “second coming”) merit the adulation they’ve been getting? I’m not sure; I think there’s something else going on here.
I’ve been somewhat surprised by the almost rapturous enthusiasm among many of the early adopters. There would seem to be more at play than a pure reaction to Google+ features. I sense a strong desire — call it pent up demand – for a genuine Facebook alternative and/or a meaningful competitive challenge to Facebook.
Google in Role of Social Underdog
Facebook has quickly become the “Microsoft of social networking,” especially following the demise of MySpace. But just as Google made Microsoft into the underdog in search, Google can once again play the underdog to Facebook in social with Google+. It’s strange and paradoxical all the way around because Facebook is for some people a counterweight to the power of Google.
Yet in some quarters of Silicon Valley and beyond it appears that an undetermined number of people are frustrated with Facebook and some of its perceived inflexibility around groups and contact management. This is based on my anecdotal conversations and interactions with people around Google+.
What If the “Cool Kids” Leave the Party?
Among the reactions, Robert Scoble celebrates and is almost giddy over the idea that “Your mom won’t use Google+.” VC Fred Wilson is “rooting for Google+.” And some marketers are equally rooting for Google+.
Professional Facebook observer David Kirkpatrick, author of The Facebook Effect, also lauded Google+. But like Scoble he argues mainstream users won’t abandon Facebook any time soon.
Social networking is partly about utility, partly about silly fun and partly about fashion. If the hipsters and “cool kids” leave the party will others be far behind?
In the near term Facebook realistically doesn’t have much to fear from Google+. But what about the medium and long term? Will it matter if Facebook loses the hearts and minds of the “digerati”?
It just might.