It’s no longer a surprise to see Google doing their own version of just about every other Internet Big Thing. They’ve probably seen what Mark Zuckerberg is worth these days, hence the launch of something that, on initial investigation, looks pretty much like Facebook… with a different logo and more white space. Having thought I just couldn’t be arsed with it, my curiosity got the better of me.
Easy stuff first… you can make status updates which, as on the most recent versions of Facebook, are part of a rolling timeline, not like the permanent strapline of the old Myspace. Those updates can include photos, videos, links or shared content from other people’s status updates. All very familiar, as is the facility to create photo albums, send private messages or chat in real time. Grouping your friends into Circles is pretty much like using Friend Lists on Facebook, and Sparks is just another way of “liking” stuff.
Still, it’s not a complete clone. With Hangouts, a video chat/conference facility, Google stole a few days on Facebook’s Skype-based video chat service, while Huddle is a kind of group SMS facility. Even the familiar stuff is subtly different from Facebook, so in time, I wonder if people will be making a choice based on ease of use.
For me, personally… it works fine, it’s easy to use and there’s nothing I particularly dislike about it. But I just can’t quite see WHY I’d want to continue using it. Almost all of the people in my Circles are already Facebook friends, and only a small minority of my Facebook friends at that. It’s easy to forget that most people don’t use social networking on a daily basis. It’s a bit like the situation with audio media in the 90s… having been persuaded to ditch their vinyl and buy CDs, people were just never going to buy into Minidisc or DCC. I suspect the same will be true of the slightly less internet savvy people for whom it was a leap of faith to move from Friends Reunited to Facebook.
Still, it’s all very new. No doubt Google will be tweaking the service over the coming months and perhaps its purpose will gradually move away from Facebook. Maybe I’ll find a way of targetting its use for my own purposes… for music, perhaps? Whatever happens, I suspect my curiosity will maintain the upper hand over my apathy…