What a difference a day makes - up to last week, $GOOG seemed like a dinosaur that was on its way to becoming $MSFT - a 'one or two phenomenal hit wonder' that had not been able to figure out social media, or the new internet. Like Lycos, Excite, Altavista, Microsoft Search, and AskJeeves the last time around, Google has been blindsided by social networks like Twitter and Facebook who observed the information overload created by Google's organization of the web, and unleashed a curation model, in which trusted people share relevant content with friends and admirers... As has been discussed at length, Facebook or Twitter now provide a better, albeit different, search and discovery experience than Google ever could do. There are however, several key flaws with Twitter and Facebook, which have been documented well - the former's achilles heal is its focus on building protocol - not destination site, its heavy dependence on 3rd party applications to push the bulk of the content to the stream, and its lack of curation tools to avoid spam. On Facebook, the main issues seem to stem from privacy concerns, sparked by the evolution of the product from a closed network of friends and family to an open network. Additionally, neither platform is all that great at search, with Twitter relying on 3rd party tools for the best user filtering tools, and Facebook relying on Bing for comingling their content with traditional search.
Google has always been about one mission - to organize the universe of information. While they have been missing the 'social boat', Google was smart enough to build or buy key applications for content creation, including Blogger, Docs/Apps, Youtube, Picasa, Gmail, Maps, Voice and most recently Music. These products were all offered with the main goal in mind - namely, to collect and organize information - these tools helped them crowdsource much of it, with social schemes in each of these seemingly independent applications. The addition of Google+ to the marketplace is actually quite intuitive as a logical next step, taking the independent social experiences and combining them in one central place, with privacy and ease of use as the key success drivers...
I, like nearly all the press, was quite skeptical about Google+ when I launched it last evening, having been on the Google Wave bandwagon years ago, but been sadly underwhelmed by the experience (or lack of use case). This experience however, is actually the exact opposite - despite having few folks on the platform thusfar, I found that the interface encouraged me to set up my social network quickly and efficiently, leveraging existing Google contacts from Gmail, Picasa, etc. It's as if all those networks of people from the various Google social applications are on Google+ (or will be shortly).
The integrated tools for group chat, videoconferencing and 'wall' were intuitive and easy to use (another post on how these tools could be best in class, to come shortly). It does not have the incredible amount of noise that I find immediately upon entering Facebook, with 5+ years of weirdo apps downloaded, and countless 'friends' added, who need to be removed or silenced from the 'wall'.
The Brilliance of Circles
The construct of circles allows me to bucket my contacts quickly and efficiently, and do so from the get-go, which ensures that I have a place to add everybody, whether they're work colleagues, clients, family, friends, or otherwise. That is a killer feature that I do not have on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter (unless I choose to have multiple accounts or spend hours configuring Facebook appropriately). Additionally, the drag and drop interface is simple and mac-like, with really good suggestions. Its a huge win for me, and something that will entice me to use the service.
Long story short - Google+ is a winner for me, and has the opportunity to really be a game-changer in social media. Ironic, I know, but if Google simply integrated Google+ into those Google applications we all know and love (which you know they'll be doing), its a matter of time before it becomes mainstream. Frankly, Facebook's 700m users probably pale in comparison (or at least are on par with) Google's massive userbase of folks using GMail, Picasa, Youtube, and even Search with a login - its a formidable competitor, with a stockpile of category-leading in-house apps, and a sizable and growing army of 3rd party developers working in and around these apps.
Needless to say, I'm happy to be holding some $GOOG stock these days...