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Rumors about the early demise of Google+ are greatly exaggerated

by Marty Gabel

Despite Google+ opening up its social networking site to everybody today, not everyone is enamored with the free service. Dan Reimold, a journalist at MediaShift, has written an article entitled Google+: Social Media Upstart ‘Worse Than a Ghost Town.’ It’s already attracted hundreds of vitriolic comments.

According to the article, Mr. Reimold has spent some time on Google+ and discovered that there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking there. Like Paul Tassi of Forbes, who last month wrote a eulogy for Google+, Mr. Reimold sees Google+ as somewhat unnecessary in a world already dominated by Facebook, and believes it will slowly fade away in the coming months.

For all we know, he may be right. Though Google+ racked up 25 million users in its first month, while still pretty much only being available via private invites, things have quietened down a bit lately. Today, CNET UK reports that even CEO Larry Page has abandoned the service. ZDNet blogger Emil Protalinski wrote an article just a couple of days ago about how Google+ is the best thing that ever happened to Facebook because the increased competition has seen the social media giant react quicker than ever and improve its own service.

Too early to call?

But are all these reports just a tad premature? When it first launched, Google+ was seen as a beacon of light in the social networking world. By offering better privacy features than Facebook, the ability to share with select circles of friends, or just see updates from who you choose, Google+ was seen as a refreshing change from increasingly-troubled Facebook. But now, the tide has turned somewhat. Because Google+ hasn’t exploded like many expected it to, it’s already being written off.

Dismissing Google+ as a ‘ghost town’ however, does seem inaccurate. Surely a social network is only as good as the people you choose to follow on it? Mr. Reimold complains that his stream of updates has ‘run dry,’ but it’s unclear whether he’s taken the time to find new and interesting people to add to his circles. If you’re a keen tech-lover, writers like Robert Scoble, Danny Sullivan, and Guy Kawasaki are all keen Google+ users. Personally, I’ve found myself following some amazing photographers who seem to have really taken to Google+. One commentator on the article mentions that a large number of genealogists have also found Google+ a great place to share their updates.

My Google+ stream is full of interesting information. A lot of people share great posts, photographs, and links. It’s very different in nature to Facebook. Admittedly, I’m using it more for that aspect than for friends, who still remain predominantly on Facebook. And this is no bad thing. Perhaps Google+ will still have a valid place in the social networking area, but its focus will be different?

Different strokes for different folks

If you want to find out how your friends fared on FarmVille or what your mother had for dinner, Facebook is still going to be king. It’s also huge when it comes to sharing photos, and has an established place in all of our daily lives. I still use it, I still love it, and I don’t think its going anywhere. But Google+ can surely co-exist alongside it. To claim that Google+ is dead already seems absurd, unless Google itself chooses to axe it (which it isn’t afraid to do when products fail -- remember Wave?).

Right now I’m happy to see an alternative way to view social streams. Admittedly, Google+ is serving a slightly different purpose to Facebook, and that’s no bad thing. It’s a different kind of sharing to Facebook, perhaps with a less ‘personal’ element. For many, that latest Steve Huff photograph or Danny Sullivan search engine analysis post is a lot more interesting than your neighbor’s latest antics.

It’s all about the quality of the people you follow. Google+ still has plenty of validity in many people’s eyes. We just may be seeing it develop into a very different kind of social networking platform to Facebook, and that’s something that everyone can get behind.