With the semi-public beta of Google+ entering the social network universe, the question on everyone's mind is, "Will it be the Facebook Killer?"
In my opinion, yes. Maybe not tomorrow, and maybe not the next day, but perhaps in the next year or two.
We all left MySpace for Facebook, because Facebook was so easy to use, and it was clean, and didn't have all that trash that was collecting on MySpace. Now, after hopping into G+, I find myself saying "This is so clean, and easy to use, and not full of that trash that's collecting on Facebook!"
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But will everyone on Facebook be willing to jump ship to join the next new thing? As an early adopter, I've got no problem doing this, nor do many of the people that are in my Google Circles, so for us, it's fun and interesting. However, the not-so-technically-inclined, like my mother, may not be very interested in learning a whole new setup.
The thing Google has going for it, is the same thing that Apple has going for it - it's sexy and fairly intuitive to use.
After spending just under a week on G+, then going back to Facebook for a few minutes, Facebook seemed a bit archaic and clunky. Facebook works, but some of the features aren't always that easy to find. Especially when you really get into it, and are trying to teach people how to be admins on public pages, or even trying to explain the difference between private profiles and public pages. It's got that "Microsoft feel" to it, which makes perfect sense for the Facebook / Microsoft team-up as of late. (Bing integration and now Skype; both are MS products.)
If you're one of the lucky ones who have been able to get an invite and get in the Google+ door, remember that G+ is still a work in progress. They tell you that right off the bat, so don't expect everything to be flawless when you get in there.
With the Facebook video announcement Wednesday, it seems appropriate to touch on the differences between the two.
Google's video chat, called "Hangout" can support up to 10 users at once (though I heard a rumor that it can support 20), whereas Facebook's new video can only do one on one.
The Hangout has a slick way of switching the main video automatically, to the person who is currently speaking. The quality is decent, but seems to go downhill as more people join, and if you get a room full of drunk social media loudmouths all talking at once, the thing freaks out a little.
Facebook's Skype quality is a little better - at first, but then starts to get out of sync and gets choppy to catch up and re-sync itself. (Of course quality on both platforms will depend on the users internet connection.)
I've had some interesting conversations with people who want to use the Hangout as a place for round table discussions on podcasts, livecasts, and even on-air segments, which makes perfect sense. Facebook's video chat won't be much use for this, as again, it's only one-on-one. Nothing innovative here. The desktop version of Skype, FaceTime, and even GChat Video can already do this.
There are a few strange things I've found with G+'s video chat, and I assume they will be addressed at some point. One, and this is kind of major, when video chatting, the service creates a massive temporary file on your machine. I mean gigs of space getting eaten the longer you chat. If you have a machine that doesn't have a lot of hard drive space, this is going to be a real problem. In order to get the space back, I had to reboot my entire MacBook.
The other weird thing is the way they have their muting setup. If a user wants to mute another user in the room, they click the "Mute" button next to the offender. The thing that seems odd to me, is that when doing so, this mutes the offender for the entire room - no one can hear them, but the muted person is the only one who can UNmute themselves. So if you want someone to shut up, and they don't want to, you can mute them, but they can just unmute themselves right away. Seems like a strange method to me.
The video settings seem to be a little buggy at the moment. You can go into the settings, change a video or audio source, but the settings don't seem to save, upon exiting.
The innovative video integration, and ease/ability to separate your followers into Circles will play a big part in Google+'s success.
Other thing Google has going for it, is the fact that so many people already use their other products. When they integrate Google+ with popular features like Reader and Gmail, users will be able to easily click and share, which goes a long way when it comes to social media.
Google will no doubt get the little bugs worked out, and when they do, people may finally openly admit they don't really like Facebook. We've put up with it for so long because there was nowhere else to go. Google+ is a pretty nice system already, and I think within the next few years, they could takeover the social network world...well..until the next shiny new thing comes along.