Google+ passes first tests, but challenges remain

It's too early to tell if Google+ will take Facebook's social networking throne

By , IDG News Service |  On-demand Software

Showered with intense praise and criticism during its first month out in a limited beta trial, Google+ has eluded the failures of other Google social networking efforts, but it's too early to tell if it will fulfill its ultimate mission as a Facebook slayer.

Compared with Google Buzz, the Twitter-like service that ignited a disastrous privacy firestorm, and Orkut, the seven-year-old social networking site popular mainly in Brazil and India, Google+ represents an initial victory for the company.

Google+ has had privacy glitches, but none of a Buzz magnitude, and some early adopters have criticized Google for deleting profiles set up by organizations and by individuals using pseudonyms, both of which are currently prohibited.

Critics have also grumbled that the world's foremost expert on search hasn't found the time to add a search function in Google+, and others are bewildered that the developer-friendly company hasn't yet made it possible for them to create third-party Google+ tools and applications.

However, on the whole, Google+ has emerged from a first month of close scrutiny in fairly good shape, certainly positioned to continue pursuing its goal of triggering a mass exodus of Facebook members.

Of course, accomplishing that is far from a sure thing at this point, and it remains to be seen if the average Facebook user will find Google+ to be a compelling enough alternative to justify the effort of moving their online social activities from one site to the other.

Not that it hasn't happened before, as the collapse of the once-mighty MySpace proves, but Facebook's dominance in social networking is unprecedented, with 750 million members whose average time spent on the site continues to rise.

"It's very early to tell whether Google+ will appeal only to a group of insiders who like to use it a lot, which is the case with Twitter, or whether it will become a broad threat to Facebook," said Forrester Research Senior Vice President Josh Bernoff.

Google+ has so far exceeded Bernoff's expectations. Meanwhile, Charlene Li, Altimeter Group founder, sees a clear potential for success in Google+. "It's got the whole package to take on Facebook," she said.

Sensing the threat, Facebook has been quick to respond to Google+, launching video chat to compete with Google+'s Hangout feature and reaching out to businesses interested in setting up a Facebook page, while Google scrambles to allow business profiles on its site.

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