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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Google+ Just Beat Facebook to the Future

Facebook's entire purpose has been to get to this moment. The moment where they have brought your close friends and family into every element of your browsing experience, following you to every place you go. Allowing you to share everything you do, everywhere you are. They've already been rumored to be working on a much stronger mobile strategy, bringing Facebook's powerful platform to the apps you use on the mobile devices you carry, to every place you go. It's that which has had Google scared and hinging employee bonuses on the success of their social program this year. However, it seems in one fell swoop Google just beat Facebook to their own game. Google+ is that good, and it immediately puts them ahead of Facebook. Here's why.

Google has a few things Facebook does not yet have. First, they have search. Google has slowly been integrating a few features into search, making search a much more social experience. Second, Google now has a pretty widely used browser (Chrome). Google even has TV experiences and desktop (Chromebook) experiences with even their own operating system. Lastly, Google has Android - the largest smart phone experience on the planet right now.

Facebook Should be Shaking in Their Boots

I was given access to Google+ today (sorry, no invites available yet unfortunately), and Facebook should be shaking in their boots figuring out a strategy to keep up. It's that good. For the first time, a social network aside from Facebook has come up with a way to fully integrate privacy controls (called Circles in Google+) throughout the entire experience. For the first time, I'm excited about another social network that could potential see me flocking away from Facebook in the future. 

It's inevitable, whether I actually fully leave Facebook or not (I likely won't, but never say never), that I'll be using Google+ regardless due to the number of integration points in the Google experiences it touches. You won't be able to avoid Google+ in the future - it's impossible. I can't say that for Facebook right now.

Google+ Branding

Google has done some amazing branding with the whole experience, too. Remember the +1 button (seen on every post on this Blog)? There is no "like" on Google+. In place of the "like" is a branded +1 button that looks just like the +1 buttons you see here.

In fact, Google has integrated their branding throughout the entire experience, making it a unique enough experience you'll want to try, and you'll feel it to be a slightly different experience than that you get from Facebook or even Twitter. For instance, in Facebook and Twitter you use "@" to mention someone. On Google, it's "+", furthering their branding experience.

If you use other Google social products such as Buzz or Google Reader (excluding Orkut), Google+ automatically imports elements of your social graph into the experience. It brings in chat from Gmail (and on the Android device even adds an element called "Huddles"). It adds automatic news discovery called "Sparks". It even integrates Google Video in an experience they call a "hangout", allowing you to collaborate as groups over live video chat, something Facebook and other social networks do not do.

Throughout the entire experience a "Feedback" button in the lower right greets you, and they use some pretty innovative code to automatically take a screenshot of the page you're on when you submit your feedback (I hope they share how they did this at some point, because JavaScript screenshots are not possible to my knowledge). The whole thing gives you a feeling that Google is listening, and that they care, something their competitors have serious issues with right now - I hope this stays around.

The Power is in the Permeation and Integration Points!

But the power of all this isn't even where it's at right now, it's the fact that all this does, to an extent, and will even more in the future integrate with all things Google touches. I just went and ordered an Android Nexus S for this very reason - Google has the potential to deeply integrate Google+ throughout the entire mobile experience and platform, bringing your friends on Google+ to everything you touch, with privacy controls the entire way (through Circles).

One element of the new Google+ which you should already be seeing is a common toolbar that spans across all Google products. Well, in Google+, this toolbar starts to show notifications of new comments and likes across all of Google. It allows you to share more items to your Google+ activity stream, straight from the toolbar. The entire Google+ experience has been integrated throughout the entire Google platform.

Now imagine this same toolbar experience being put into the browser, through Chrome. Very quickly your friends will cross-pollenate the entire web browsing experience, integrating not only with the Google products you interact with, but with every web site you cross. The cool thing about it will be that websites will not even need to integrate Google+ into their experience for the experience to happen - the browser will automatically bring these things into your web browsing experience.

Google hasn't yet reached their full potential with this yet, but if you ask me, integration-wise, they are already ahead of Facebook. Just a few more steps and it's going to be pretty hard to catch up - I'd really like to see what Facebook has up their sleeves in response to all this (as I'm sure they haven't been clueless on what Google is doing).

In the meantime, can I have dibs on writing Google+ Application Development for Dummies?

You can follow me when you have access over here. In the meantime, click the link anyway and you'll get an idea of what a Google+ profile looks like.


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