Google's Social Media Hangouts Challenges Facebook's Friends
Google seems to be unshaken by all its missteps, lawsuits and flawed attempts at seeking social media's holy grail - as it makes yet another attempt at trying to beat Facebook at its own game. This time out, it's launching a social networking service called the Google+ project which while looking a lot like Zuckerberg's brain child - is in a lock-down beta mode, only accessible to a select group of testers, hand-picked by the Big G (note: if you link here, and come up with an error message, you'll know you were not amongst the chosen few!)
So what does the Google+ project offer that Orkut, Buzz, the Wave, and Google Me lacked? The main difference is sharing with groups versus individuals - like your fishing buddies, cubicle cohorts, or any other type of affinity group you can think up. …Hmmmm, wasn't this what old school Ning was all about, a couple of years back? And wasn't that experiment a dismal failure, when they moved to a paid monetization model?
Nevertheless, Google is once again back in the trenches trying to carve out its own niche of followers. The question is, how do you play catch-up with a social network Goliath the LIKES of Facebook (pun intended)? Just duplicating the look and feel of Facebook makes you look more like a copycat than an innovator.
The only other discernible difference I see that may distinguish the search giant is a feature they call "Hangouts," where other members of a group can participate in video chats. Here, groups can congregate like they would at the water cooler in days of yore, to chat up common interest, share photos and watch videos. The same service will be offered on smartphones with a feature called Huddle.
Adam Pash, a blogger at Lifehacker, described the service’s Hangout feature, which lets people video chat with as many as 10 friends simultaneously, as “the best free video chat we’ve seen.”
However, even a hangout or huddle is not that innovative, since start-ups like PATH, SocialEyes, GroupMe and even Flipboard have launched apps with similar types of features.
So will Google's latest attempt to rise to the occasion falter once again and be tossed in its mounting digital trash heap, or will it somehow finally gain some traction? In the graphic novel satire, "Facebucks & Dumb F*cks," the creators don't believe so. Mark Zuckerberg (aka Z-Man) and Facebook (aka Facebucks) quickly dismiss Google (aka Gobble) as a competitor because they lack the social media gene - and actually end up focusing on a more formidable competitor - the owner of the Great Firewall - the socialist state of China!
Time will tell if that prognostication proves correct, and Google ends up as a historical Internet footnote in decades to come.