No sooner had the dust settled and the ink dried on Facebook’s $1 billion acquisition of Instragram than Google unveiled its own social network game changer.
Google+ claims 170 million users, including those who share via Gmail, YouTube, Search, and other places on the Google network, discounting the idea that Google+ needs to be a destination in order to be successful as a social network. Still, the design changes indicate that Google is thinking seriously about people using the service on-band.
New Features of Google+
In addition to a new menu, the conspicuous addition of a “cover photo” on profiles, Google has added a stylish drag and drop functionality to make user actions both more intuitive and more aesthetically engaging.
There’s also a new, dedicated page for Google+ Hangouts, streamlining the rest of the interface and highlighting the free service, which has been one of the network’s stronger selling points.
You can hover over different points on the interface to reveal certain elements, and customize your dashboard by dropping icons you don’t care to see in the “More” folder.
The news stream has been revamped with full bleed images and a few design tweaks. There is now a dedicated Chat sidebar on the right hand side, and the “Explore” section – not dissimilar from Twitter’s “Discover” – is connected to the Trends visible from the Home page.
Unlike Facebook, whose changes inspire a polarized barrage of adoration by the few and ire by the rest, Google+’s design and functionality have generally received only praise. Meticulously designed, there has never been a question that Google+ was good at what it was developed to do.
The question has been instead, “Do users want to do what Google+ enables?”
That remains to be seen, but the design and usability changes are pushing user towards the seats.
Will Google+ Eclipse Facebook?
Google+’s new look will facilitate discovery and engagement, and there is at least one feature that puts Facebook to shame: the obvious and complete lack of ads. Google+ has regularly been described as a social layer that connects Google’s products as the Web becomes more social-centric, as opposed to the data-centric days in which Google was born.
As one of many products, Google+ doesn’t have to run extensive advertisements or utilize paid incentives with its regular userbase. Facebook, on the other hand, is the only product that Facebook offers, so advertising revenue is their broadest income channel.
In the meanwhile, Facebook and Google are not direct competitors, but Facebook’s impending IPO and its recent Instagram acquisition indicate that it has ambitions of providing more extensive Web services. As far as social networks are concerned, Facebook is clearly outpacing Google. However, Google has the resources to make every step count, and has relied on precision and testing to their benefit – much opposed to Facebook’s “move fast and break things” mentality.
Ideological differences aside, Google+ has delivered another interesting product for users and we suspect that, although they will continue to count any Google service usage as a Google+ visit, these design changes will bring more users to Google+’s dashboard to interact with others.
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