Circles, Huddles and Hangouts

14 July 2011

So what has Google’s new social network called Google+ Project got in store for us? When I read the buzz about it on Techcrunch it’s clear that many of the techies are quite excited about it and some are predicting a defection from Facebook. Let’s not get carried away though and imagine that 700m users are going to suddenly switch to Google+ Project. However Chrome claims it has over 10 million users already. That’s not a bad growth rate for what has, in effect, been available by invite only, for the past two weeks.
However one reader reminds us that we should not forget that Google has a user base that is eight times bigger than that of Facebook. We have to remember that Google has tried before to launch a social network which was called Buzz which they had to withdraw due to some classic errors, but as we all know we can learn valuable lessons from our mistakes.

According to Techcrunch they’ve have had the benefit of one of the original Apple designers Andy Hertzfeld who worked with the Macintosh team in the 8Os so the design is much more attractive.

Some of the cool features will be the integration with Android and the group video chat called a Huddle which will enable you to have a video chat with your friends on your phone when you’re trying to decide where to go. For those of us that grew up with texting and chatting on Facebook with your mates, this will feel quite normal, however those who did not will wonder why you can’t just speak to each other.

So where will it all lead?
The Sparks feature will be all about sharing content that’s related to what you’re interested in and this will be Google’s big money spinner as they will be able to exploit this detailed view of their users and match content to their interests and draw in advertisers. This is where I can see that social content will heavily influence the search rankings and if you have not started to build your base of fans and followers you will be at a distinct disadvantage if you want your content to have any visibility in the search engines.
Endgame for Yahoo?
At this stage I’m not sure if it will be the endgame for Yahoo which has been losing market share and has an email system which is creaking under the volume of popups and interference from advertisers. Let’s hope Google takes lessons from Yahoo on how not to over burden the interface with too many adverts. From experience I think Google with its deep pockets can afford to wait until Google+ has good critical mass before the ads start to intrude. However let’s also not forget that Google staff have let slip that Google+ will eventually only be available to those with a gmail address.
The rise of Android
I think the Google+ features will be another reason to buy a smartphone and secures Android’s continued lead in this market as shown below. Apple will have to come up with something fairly revolutionary to combat the advantage that Android already has. I think the winner in the smartphone market will also be the player that can stop the continued phone hacking scandals and make this a thing of the past. No amount of expensive government enquiry will stop this as long as the phone platform allows it to happen.

Worldwide Smartphone Sales to End Users by Operating System in 1Q11
(Thousands of Units)
Market Share (%)
Market Share (%)
Research In Motion
Other OS
Source: Gartner (May 2011)
This is only Phase 1
It’s clear that Circles, Huddles, Hangouts and Sparks are only the first phase and Google will not have forgotten that to monetize its new social network it will need to look at other opportunities such as gaming and payment so watch out for more developments coming soon.
Google’s engineers have been responding to questions as to why they have not opened up the platform to the public yet and it’s clear that this is only part one of a fundamental new roll out.
If you are interested to sign up to use Google+ you can do so here and they will let invite you when they open up more capacity.
Tell us what you think
If you were one of the chosen few do let us know what you think about the new Google+ network and if you think it will overtake Facebook.
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