Two Ways That Google Plus Can Turn the Social Networking Tide

July 5, 2011
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When Google launched Google Plus, the online world met it with mixed reactions. Those disgruntled with Facebook felt relieved and shouted their hurrahs. The skeptics, as usual, advised everyone to wait and see. Google die-hards lapped up the new service immediately. And, everyone else had one uniform thought: “This will pose a threat to Facebook.”

Despite Facebook’s announcements of “something awesome” to be launched tomorrow (July 6), Google Plus’s threat to the world’s de-facto social networking service remains real and imminent. But, it will have to battle Facebook–and most likely win, too–in two major areas.

The first battle that will have Google winning over Facebook is that of integration. Google has become more than just a search engine. It has also developed products and services built around their main strength–online search. There are dozens of Google properties and products (e.g., Mail, Voice, Maps, Groups, Sites, Docs, Picasa, YouTube, Blogger, etc.)–all accessible using just one Google user account. Google Plus features are omnipresent in all of Google’s services so that you will stay in tune to latest updates from your social circles.

Those red notification popups on the upper right corner of your browser keep you up-to-date with the latest feeds from your friends, whom you can group and organize into “Circles.” Being omnipresent in Google products and services as a result of seamless integration, Google Plus’s implicit suggestion is for you to stay within the Google ecosystem whenever you are on the Web.

Google Plus’s tight integration places Facebook in a tight spot simply because Google has made it easier for users to stay within Google’s own circle for almost all “essential” online services–including that of social networking. Heaven knows that people hardly like having to keep in touch with friends and contacts through more than one social network. Currently, about half of Facebook’s more than 500 million worldwide users stay on the site for at least 30 minutes daily on the average. Google Plus is bound to eat into Facebook’s timeshare, primarily because of integration.

The second battlefield where Google and Facebook are likely to clash is that of platform development. In this area, Google has a demonstrable ability for attracting and sustaining developers. Take the case of Android. Software developers are flocking to the Android Market with their wares. Some of the apps are provided as ad-ware, while some others are provided ad-free but for a small fee.

Does Google take a bite of the profits from the developers on the Android Market? Yes, it does. A full 30% at that. But, then, so does Facebook–at the same percentage, too. Between the two, who can afford to forgo the 30% cut and give all 100% of the sales to the developer? I’m sure Google can. With its US$30-billion annual revenue, Google can.

Now, suppose Google lets app developers enjoy 100% profit off of the apps that they publish on the Android Market. That would be a really magnetic deal, wouldn’t it? Would that make app developers devote more of their coding time to Android and Google? Probably. At the very least, an app developer could code for both platforms (and derive 70% from Facebook, 100% from Google–best of two possible profit worlds), although that might result in spreading one’s coding time too thinly. Bottom line is that Google can afford to relax its profit cut policy a bit in order to draw in more app developers.

Remember, too, that Android is Google’s offspring. It is on more than 100 million smartphones and tablets worldwide. Being a mobile platform under Google’s wings, Android will definitely have Google’s blessing and will take high priority in terms of integration with Google Plus. Needless to say, Google Plus has a captive audience in the 100 million Android users worldwide.

Before Google Plus, the world only had one real option for social networking–Facebook. But, with Google Plus, the world gained one more real option–and a potential Facebook beater at that.

Have you tried Google Plus already? And, in what way is it better than Facebook? Does the hangouts feature add a potential alternative to telepresence video conference rooms for you business owners out there?

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