So the behemoth that is Google is having another stab at the social web. Despite the abject failures that have been Wave and the ‘bull in a china shop’ noise of Buzz, Google+ seems to be, at first glance at least, a genuinely interesting and exciting development. Largely because it’s focused on useful features and social tools rather than creating yet another social network that, let’s face it, we don’t need or even want. But the real genius behind Google+, if it pans out as it looks, is the fact that it’s focused heavily on mobile.
When Google announced and then launched its +1 button a while back, I thought it was yet another pointless and rather pathetic attempt by the company to grab a slice of the social media action. I disliked it almost as much as I hated Buzz from the day that launched, despite the hype surrounding it at the time. The contradictions inherent in the +1 button are too numerous to mention now, and in fact, I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about this. But I’m glad I never got round to it now. I said to my colleagues at BOTTLE that the +1 was surely the start of something bigger, as it makes absolutely no sense (to me) in isolation. And it looks like I was right on that count.
Google+ gives the +1 button some context, and positions it as just one of an array of new social tools that link to your Google account. It’s very apparent from the initial Google+ announcement that Google+ is an attempt to pull together search, mobile and social media – something that Facebook has so far struggled with and shows little sign of overcoming. It looks as if Google has finally FINALLY abandoned its mission to ensure that the world and his wife ditches Facebook in favour of a much more holistic approach that provides genuine user benefit via mobile handsets. And that is a big and important move. In fact, it represents a complete change in mindset and strategy from Google.
It’s no secret that the Android operating system has been making huge inroads into the smartphone market over the last couple of years. I’m a huge Droid advocate and wouldn’t even consider switching to the iPhone or the (snigger) Blackberry. One of the major benefits, aside from the swish OS, open developer platform and altogether more user-friendly approach, is how everything syncs seamlessly with my Google account in the cloud. I don’t even have to think about it. And so what I find particularly exciting about Google+ is that it will feature several tools that add extra life to a mobile – and especially Google’s own Android platform. It’ll further tie up all of Google’s services into one neat, central online hub, equally as accessible by computer or mobile. And THAT is genius.
This whole approach is actually summarised in the amazing new advertisement for another of the company’s top products, Chrome (below). It’s a beautiful ad concept, and highlights what Google is really all about nowadays. And it’s NOT about being another Facebook which, as I say, is I sincerely hope something that the Google top brass have now accepted and given up on. What it IS about is sharing among small groups of related friends.
With this ‘hub of the web’, mobile-enabled strategy in mind, Google+ has some great tools. Instant Upload, whereby any picture or video taken on an enabled mobile automatically syncs to a private area on Google+ with no uploading is a fantastic idea. Huddle, a tool that looks to stream group texts into an timeline akin to instant messaging is a lovely development. And Hangouts, billed as ‘unplanned meet ups’ that utilise video, is another advance that Facebook can’t compete with.
Personally I can’t wait to get my hands on the currently limited Google+ to give it a test drive. And whether or not it works, you’ve got to give Google credit for its relentless pursuit of a slice of the social action. And for its apparent strategic shift with this latest project.
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