Google Retools Google Plus
Google+, the search giant’s answer to the challenge of Facebook, continues to lose ground to Zuckerberg’s juggernaut, although it’s not out of the race yet.
Or so says Google, by way of its latest facelift to the social networking platform. The Google+ reboot was announced via an official blog describing the effort as a move “toward a simpler, more beautiful Google.” Whether they’ve succeeded will be left to the network’s 170 million users – along with a host of Web critics.
Unsurprisingly, Google designers decided to take a few more pages out of FB’s playbook, like a larger navigation bar and a new profile photo option that is very similar in look and feel to Facebook’s Timeline layout. That’s to be expected, however, and shouldn’t get in the way of users’ enjoyment of Google’s more innovative upgrades.
Improved visuals played a large role in the change, as did a more prominent position of the Google Hangouts feature. The new Hangouts will allow more people to video chat simultaneously, as well as keep track of other video conversations occurring in different friend “Circles.” The dedicated page draws more attention to a feature that is arguably the defining difference between the two social networks.
It is also a fair metaphor for Google’s goal to push Google+ into a position of social hub around which all of its numerous parts will orbit, including YouTube, Search, Offers, Wallet, Documents and a growing list of other services and features. Naturally, Google’s desire is to edge out Facebook and the best way for it to do that is to marshal all of its online resources into one fluid experience, which has been its aim for some time.
The real question is whether the new change will encourage more people to jump ship, or at least to give the upstart social network a try. Google seems to think once users give it a test run and see what it has to offer the deal will be sealed, and there is reason to suspect there is some truth to the idea.
There is no question that the Google+ ranks are swelling, and more people are finding more reasons to make the switch – or maybe just cheat a little. Advocates say Google+ offers a better mobile app for people on the go, better friend management using Google+ “Circles,” a more engaging photo sharing experience and the aforementioned Hangouts feature.
Of course, what it really takes is a village and right now the village – the world – remains on Facebook. Between these two, however, the race is more of a marathon than a sprint, and there is no doubting that Google has stamina to spare.
James Madeiros writes for Sparkplug Digital, an online marketing agency specializing in SEO campaigns for technology companies.