- July 12, 2011
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I may have been wrong about Google+.
At first glance, it’s easy to compare Google’s new social network to Facebook since there are a lot of similarities. And if Google+ is really meant to replace Facebook, then I don’t give it much of a chance to succeed. After all, with 750 million users worldwide, it’s gonna take a lot to convince them to pack up their digital belongings and move to Google. But what if it’s not Facebook that Google+ is meant to replace?
What if it’s Twitter?
On the surface, it seems silly; Google+ doesn’t resemble the microblogging platform at all. But actually, it kinda does. Both sites use the same asynchronous “follow” model in that anyone can follow anyone else without that person having to follow back. (Unlike Facebook’s synchronous “friend” model.) And that’s extremely significant.
Yesterday, I mentioned that the people I had added to my Google+ circles were all people I was following on Twitter and that the people who had added me were also following me on Twitter. I therefore questioned the purpose of Google+. If anything I posted was also something I would tweet, then what’s the point?
But maybe that is the point. I didn’t make the connection at the time, but it actually makes sense: despite the resemblance to Facebook, by default Google+ actually behaves more like Twitter. Why? Because of the “follow” model.
But then Google+ goes further, removing the 140-character limitation, adding comments, and hosting photos and videos locally. While Twitter’s stripped-down approach has made it a unique experience, it hasn’t necessarily made it a user-friendly one. Despite Twitter having over 200 million users, only a small fraction of those actually use the service regularly. Compare that to Facebook, which sees about half of its users log in daily. Why the difference in usage between Facebook in Twitter? In part, it could be because of Facebook’s “walled garden” approach to networking, but I suspect Twitter’s steep learning curve has a lot to do with it as well. And it seems like Google is trying to alleviate that learning curve in Google+ by adding the Facebook-like features that Twitter lacks. Instead of Facebook+, Google’s new creation is more like Twitter+.
Now, do I really expect Google+ to be the death of Twitter? No, at least not in the near term. But it’s not as far-fetched as I originally thought, either, particularly if Google+ continues to pick up momentum. And that could be very, very interesting.