It appears that Google+ is becoming more than a gnat circling around Facebook’s head. Although its numbers are still relatively modest, Google+ just opened its doors to the masses, which is likely to give its membership a bump. That, plus the addition of some impressive new functionality — particularly for mobile devices, where Facebook is lagging — may have the much larger social network squirming.
Google has unleashed Google+ on the world, now completely unfettered by its earlier requirement to join via invitation.
For its debut, Google has added a slew of enhancements as well.
Chief among them is the addition of a search box, which allows people to search for content or other people within the Plus network.
It has also launched Hangouts for mobile devices, with support currently offered for devices with front-facing cameras running Android 2.3 and up. iOS support is coming soon.
Another addition is Hangouts On Air, an option for users who want to broadcast and record their sessions. Up to nine people can join, and anyone can watch the broadcast. The first On Air hangout will launch with will.i.am on September 21.
Google announced some new Hangout features still under construction, as well: screensharing, which lets users share images on their screens; sketchpad, to share doodles or sketches; Google Docs; and Named Hangouts, an option that lets users create a public hangout about a certain topic.
Google is releasing a basic set of Hangouts APIs for developers who want to build apps and games for the platform.
Google did not respond to TechNewsWorld’s request to comment for this story.
Facebook, for its part, has not been idling watching Google+ encroach on its turf. The social media giant has been releasing its own series of changes — and will continue to do so if current rumors are accurate.
The company is reportedly preparing to tweak its “Like” button to make it more granular, adding “Read,” “Listened,” and “Watched.” These are expected to be introduced at the F8 Developer conference, according to news accounts. Later, it will launch social commerce buttons, such as “Want.”
Both companies appear to be in reactive mode, determined not to let the other gain an edge in any one functional area.
“My initial thoughts on the Google+ enhancements [were] that it is directly taking on Facebook,” Robb Hecht, adjunct professor of marketing at Baruch College, told TechNewsWorld.
Conversely, the Google+ launch and its new offerings are fueling Facebook’s moves, he said — with the “Read, Listened, Watched,” buttons as prime examples.
Variations on Themes
Not that Google+ and Facebook have become mirror images. As they compete, they are subtly creating some differences between that could matter more to certain constituencies.
For instance, Google+ has pushed ahead of Facebook with its mobile offerings, said Ian Palmer, head of marketing at Derycz Scientific.
“In the long term, mobile strategy and execution just might be where the line in the sand is drawn for whomever ultimately emerges as the leader in the social space,” he told TechNewsWorld.
“It may also be a key distinction between customer base profiles in addition to key geographic, psychographic and demographic splits,” Palmer said.
Facebook’s changes will delight its advertisers, Laura O’Shaughnessy, CEO of SocialCode, told TechNewsWorld.
“These new features will uncover new data about how different audience segments respond to different aspects of the platform,” she said.