We are truly living in amazing times. The pace of introduction of innovative technology products continues to increase. Just when it looks like a company has first mover advantage and a seemingly unshakeable market-dominant position, a challenger emerges to unseat them. This in nothing new in the technology sector, with examples dating back to the 1970’s. At that time, it was minicomputers challenging IBM’s juggernaut platform, the mainframe. In subsequent years we’d witness Excel trounce Lotus 1-2-3, IE destroy Navigator and Facebook obliterate MySpace. None of these historical events compares to the disruptive tornado we are witnessing; live and in real-time.
After 2 failed starts (buzz and wave), Google introduced Google Plus, a social networking platform. In just 2 weeks, it is believed that close to 10 million users have signed up. It has also caused a firestorm of media buzz. It is estimated that 35% of recently retweeted news stories relate to the product. Even in an age of rapid uptake of trends and fads, the quick ascension of this product is amazing. All this has occurred while Google has cleverly kept the product in “invite only” mode. This is the same marketing approach they used with gmail. It is the equivalent of forcing people to line up by the velvet ropes outside the new, “hot” nightclub.
In addition to the rapid uptake of Google Plus, it is notable for the broad array of market leaders it is potentially threatening. It reads like an A-list of current web 2.0 darlings. The most obvious target is Facebook. But it also has a microblogging capability to compete with Twitter. It has the basic capabilities to compete with WordPress and Tumblr for blogging. It has a rudimentary business profile capability that could compete with LinkedIn. It’s video features could compete with Skype. It’s integration of Google Check-In could make it a competitor to Foursquare. It could also challenge the likes of Evernote for personal organization. When the promised business version is released, it could take on Microsoft Sharepoint.
If this were any other vendor, the product could seem like it was overreaching. But this is Google, home to over 200 million mailboxes and still the dominant player in search. It remains to be seen if Google Plus will ultimately become a dominant platform. It is off to a strong start and will surely be nurtured by Google through this infancy stage. Its big promise is to unify an individual’s social applications in one consolidated environment. Many folks, frustrated and overwhelmed by the disparate apps that they need to organize all of their social activity, will welcome such a product.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, prediction is dangerous, especially about the future! While I’m not ready to read the last rites for Facebook, early suggestions are that Google Plus will be able to carve out a decent market position across several of the market spaces I listed above. There are two possible problems that I could foresee that would stall their progress:
- Major security, privacy or service issues, especially before the product achieved significant traction
- Government action by the FTC or EU contending that Google was achieving monopoly power
Whatever the future brings, Google Plus will be a highly influential product. It is sure to up the ante in this space, forcing a raft of competitors to invest in and improve their offerings. As a gadget guy, I welcome the battle.