Two weeks ago, Google tied up with Zynga and Electronic Arts (EA) to introduce online gaming on G+. Popular titles such as Angry Birds, Dragon Age Legends and Bejewelled Blitz can now be played on G+, with new titles in the making (Google Plus Games Service Goes Live). That gaming bid not only potentially levelled the gaming arena for G+ against Facebook, but also took a spat at their commercially-driven rival by excluding all advertising and data farming attachments to their games.
On 23rd Aug, Facebook released its latest upgrade, a “privacy overhaul” that seeks to silence G+’s bragging rights (Facebook’s Big Privacy Changes, Mashable). Clearly stating its intent to challenge Google head-on. Now what is Google’s next move?
Bradley Horowitz, Vice-President of Product for Google, suggests four initiatives in the pipeline (Google’s Horowitz: “We Need To Improve” Google Plus & Facebook’s Sharing Controls Are “Familiar”). Here are the initiatives mentioned with my comments on how Facebook could match up:
G+ to release APIs for third-party development. Facebook already has the lead in this with plenty of third-party collaborations in to date.
2. Integration with other Social Media
G+ users to be able to share content updates with other social networking services such as Twitter. Facebook also permits and offers bridging tools for co-sharing of social media content (eg. tweets and web links).
3. Larger Hangouts
Horowitz plans to increase the capacity of Hangouts to beyond the current 10 participant limit, proposing a turn-based procedure to organise the interaction. In the aspect of video conferencing, it is certain that Google has the right foresight of “community”, even allowing video conferencing users to share links and watch Youtube together (Google ups the social media chatting game). Facebook’s tie-up with Skype though promising, still lacks the robust multi-participant capabilities of G+.
4. Comment Threading
Horowitz is open to the idea to allow threading to comments on G+. This feature of attaching previous comments in a historical thread has been long observed by the likes of blogs, forums and Facebook.
It is unclear if G+ is in the strategic position to overtake Facebook’s lead in the social network. As of now, G+’s predictable edge over Facebook would be Hangouts and its Realtime search. According to Quance’s (Mediatel) speculation, the trend in online user interactions are showing a shift towards video conferencing (Google ups the social media chatting game). As for Google’s Realtime search, this proprietary service of ranking users’ sharing and consumption of online information is commercially promising and could greatly impact social media marketing (Google Plus for Business). The culmination of both facilities could earn Google’s rightful place in social media.
From this standpoint, perhaps Google simply needs be decisive and outrun Facebook’s developmental capabilities while it still has some advantage. If not, this game of “catch-up” might persists with both Google and Facebook incessantly levelling the playing field. This outcome might leave both SNSs being similar incarnations of each other. And if that is so, would G+ still be able to catch up with Facebooks’ user base of over 750 million? Probably not soon enough.