Google introduced its social networking service called the Google+ project — which happens to look eerily similar to Facebook. Yet Google+ emphasizes its un-Facebook-like ability to share information with specific groups of people and of course, respect users privacy. Although the idea of Google + privacy may be contrary to recent history. Remember Google Buzz? It is a social sharing tool for Gmail users that resulted in the Federal Trade Commissions review of Google Buzz for deceptive privacy practices. Anyway … Google insists that Google+ circles of friends allows for easy and completely private compartmentalization of your social self.
Google+ users can drag and drop Gmail contacts into different groups, or circles of friends, so to speak. Right now the service is available only to a select group of Google users who will soon be able to invite others. (Let’s hope this works better than Google Wave-R.I.P.) Rather than sharing everything with just about everyone on Facebook, those invited to play with Google+ “inner circles” can share information with smaller groups — like colleagues, former colleagues, college roommates, or dog park friends, coffee clutch, blood relatives, in-laws, outlaws, etc. Notably, Google+ also offers group text messaging and video chat.
Privacy matters aside — what’s really at stake here? IMO, Visitor traffic and advertising dollars. Google’s status as the most popular entry point to the web is in jeopardy as Facebook continues to challenge the perennial 900-lb. gorilla that is Google. In May, 180 million people visited Google sites (including YouTube et.al.), as opposed to 157.2 million visits to Facebook, according to comScore. Google figures that when people visit Facebook, Google loses access to valuable information that could benefit its web search and paid advertising, as well as Google stockholders, of course.
One thing is for certain — it’s unlikely that the announced release of Google+ will result in a return to negotiations with Facebook for access to its “like” data, like Bing/Yahoo have. It’s estimated that 20% of the US online population has a Gmail address. Seems like Google still has a long way to go to rival the estimated 500 million active Facebook users each month. At least Google +1 makes a heck of a lot more sense now that there is a Google+.
Google hits record with 1 billion site visitors in May