Last week was a very exciting week for webmasters and technology buffs alike. Google finally released its ‘social network’, which they’ve called ‘Google+’.
Following the success of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, Google has been looking to get a slice of the action and has been working on its own take of a social network for some time. With Google Buzz (which has been an undoubted failure) being one of a handful of ventures the search giant has made into the social arena, things weren’t looking too hopeful, with many experts feeling as though Google had ‘missed the boat’ and that they should stick to what they know best: search.
But despite the company’s previous failings with social networking, Google+ makes all the right noises and fundamentally makes sense if Google wants to move its search engine forward.
What will Google+ bring to the party?
You see, social interaction on the web is so important. It’s not just about idle chit-chat. Firstly, it’s about bringing real-time information to the masses and secondly, it places a value on the relationships we have with people (on and offline).
Prior to the ‘social era’ we’re now in, website recommendations could only be made in the form of a link from one website to another (hence why the quantity and quality of inbound links are considered in search engine ranking algorithms). This meant that non-web-savvy individuals couldn’t influence website rankings with their personal recommendations or dislikes. Nowadays, providing you’re on Facebook or Twitter (which many of us are), you’ll be able to recommend websites, companies, restaurants, hotels and/or so much more, to your friends and followers, who also have accounts within the social networks.
Unfortunately for us (the users of the Google search engine), Facebook, which is the most established of social networks, isn’t looking to share the valuable information it has gathered, with the likes of Google – meaning Google can’t leverage Facebook’s social data to enhance its own ranking algorithms. Instead, Facebook is using its data to venture into the search market (with Facebook Search), which makes Google a little uncomfortable to say the least!
The general consensus is that for search to improve, it must look to consider the social interactions we have with others, and that means, Google must get it’s hands on social data. The only way it’s going to do that is by starting its own social network.
So what makes Google+ any different to Facebook and Twitter?
Well, for starters, Google+ is more of a social network than Twitter. Twitter is fundamentally a micro-blogging platform, meaning there’s not much of a ‘profile’ as such, for you to manage. You just publish comment/promote content as and when you deem it appropriate, and then, within seconds (in most cases), your comments won’t be looked at again! With Google+, users are able to manage contacts (through ‘Circles’), participate in ‘Hangouts’ (which are video chats with up to 10 people), read through ‘Sparks’, upload photos, chat and make recommendations through use of the ‘+1 button’. The benefit Google+ has over Facebook is that it is seen to be a little more privacy-friendly.
Of course, Google has an absolute mountain to climb in order to match or even get close to Facebook’s user stats.