I have noted a few new interesting features in Facebook the last few days. The most obvious were the running “ticker” on the right that shows activity, and the ability to create groups and share updates by group rather than globally.
If that sounds awfully familiar it’s because sharing by group was one of the most highly touted advantages to Google+ when it first came out.
And that is why Google+ has a problem,.
See, I am not on Google+ yet. I haven’t even sniffed it. I have a stack of invites, and I surely have been keeping up on what other people are doing with it, but I haven’t bothered to log in myself and create an account. Now I am sure Google doesn’t much care if I am there or not, but I know they care if people LIKE me are. I am an unabashed fast follower. I wasn’t the first to Facebook, or Twitter, or Foursquare or, or, or… I stay up on the trends but prefer to let others go through the pain of figuring out new things and then I jump in. And every time I feel that urge to jump on the latest and the greatest I consider all the hours I would have wasted on technologies we don’t even remember.
So Google+ was intriguing, and the hype was overwhelming, but I didn’t see any need to jump. Why? Two reasons: First, not enough of my social network jumped there and simultaneously LEFT “FaceLinTwit” so I didn’t feel like I was missing anything by not jumping in.
And second, Google+ doesn’t (yet) appear to fill a big hole in the social opportunity. When MySpace was cool I ignored Facebook because I couldn’t customize my page to my hearts content. But then when I struggled for awhile trying to figure out how to customize my MySpace page, I came to appreciate the simplicity of the Facebook experience. Well that, and pretty much all of my friends showed up.
So this s the crux of the problem for Google. The one feature that everyone I know raved about in Google+ was the ability to create groups of people and limit how you share information. Like many of you, I keep a pretty tight distinction between how I use Facebook (personal only) and LinkedIn (work). The notion that I could start to blur that distinction was pretty appealing.
But when you have 500 million members, and an army of developers working day and night on your platform, your competition needs more than a feature gap to make any real headway. They need an opportunity gap that can’t be easily structured using existing platforms.
Trust me, I have absolutely no doubt that somebody WILL displace Facebook at some point in the future,. The web continues to evolve rapidly, our interests and tastes change. It’s only a matter of time and it may yet be Google+, they are surely motivated. In the meantime, I am off to figure out how to create groups of my friends in Facebook.