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Circles, Sparks, Hangouts, Huddles – Can Google+ Unseat Facebook

By Manish Dhingra,Co-founder & Director, Mediology Software

What a week its been for the Social Media and Social Networking Industry, one that saw the unveiling of Google+ (in limited beta field trial) and the demise of MySpace. Both Google and MySpace have in the past tried to take on the might of Facebook however no one has come close to budging the supremacy of the Mark Zuckerberg, Harvard startup.

The launch of Google+ this week brought back memories of 2005, when I had just started my own entrepreneurial journey as one of the early companies pioneering innovation in the area of social networking and rich media based platforms. I couldn’t help but think to myself “Another social network in this day and age, I mean don’t we just have enough already with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Foursquare?”

I guess it’s natural considering that over the past six years I have built, seen, used and given up on several social media platforms. I want to use this post to talk about social networking, the Google+ project and where Google may have an edge over Facebook in this space (any guesses).

Why Are Social Networks Still Relevant for Google?

Surely Google wins a lot of points for resilience given the stature and arrogance of its brand and stock piles of cash. Its so far had several opportunities to fail in the area of social networking with past projects such as Orkut (which was the dominant network in India and Brazil till last year), Wave, Buzz as well as formulating the API’s for OpenSocial (jointly with the likes of MySpace, Friendster, Hi5, Bebo and many more).

All its initiatives above started off with great hype and fanfare but in the end proved to be damp squibs. None of them succeeded since there was no adoption, no stickiness and nothing intuitive about those products. So why is Google still spending a vast amount of resources to stay in this space? The real reason is advertising revenue, one of Google’s cash cows. Social networks today attract the highest audience from the content publishing verticals. Pure play social networks command a 28% share of ad-impressions across all publishing verticals. What’s more, social media and networking has the ability to integrate the other publishing verticals too like News, Games, Photos, email, Messaging, Video. This essentially leads to the conclusion that if Google does not succeed in this space Facebook could one day consume Google’s cash cow.

Rupert Murdoch would have analysed all of the above when he paid $580 Million for MySpace in 2005. Recently though MySpace was acquired by Specific Media for a reported $35 Million. Where MySpace went wrong, is clearly the subject of another thought provoking analysis?

So can the Circles,Sparks and Hangouts re-instate Google?


Having played around with Google+ this week, I certainly feel Google+ still has a long way to go. I do not immediately see it making a big impression on the already very advanced population of social network users. The concept of circles is definitely interesting and something deeply rooted in the psychology of all living beings, but is it enough to convince people to switch. The key lies in two aspects:

  • Will my Social Graph move to Google+?
  • What innovation will Google+ add to this medium to pull the masses?

Its interesting to note that Facebook which is a company that does only social media is currently valued at $90 billion while Google is valued at $168 Billion, and it certainly does a hell lot more than just social media. Maybe the comparisons are not even possible on valuation terms in reality, since it’s not an apple to apples comparison.

There has been a lot of talk about Google integrating its crown jewels like Picasa, YouTube, Gmail, Andriod, +1 etc, which gives Google+ the real edge over Facebook. I certainly feel that the above is worthless unless you have an active social graph which pulls you back to the site. The concept of Hangouts (video chat service) is indeed interesting, however Facebook, with some help from Skype is sure to create something even more impressive. This is one feature which may well take off with Gen Y and Gen Z given their affinity for smartphones, social media and the internet.

Google+ for Business Users is a sure winner and difficult to emulate for Facebook

The current feature set of Google+ has tremendous appeal for Google Apps customers specially small and medium business enterprises. I’d definitely like to create a circle for each of the departments in my office, be able to share specific information with them, hangout with the sales teams, the development teams and the human resources separately. That’s the kind of feature set which should give the likes of Yammer and other Enterprise Social Networking companies a run for the money. With three million businesses using Google apps, there is also a large crowd to play and experiment with. To summarize, at present, Google+ just seems like an Facebook rip-off with some innovative concepts like circles, sparks and hangouts. Whether it will be able to upseat Facebook seems highly improbable but then again, I said the same when Gmail was launched (“Yet another email service”) and when Chrome was launched (“Not another browser”), and today I can’t do without either of them. So I don’t want to be eating my words again, even though that’s a good sign for Google.


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The author is a Serial Entrepreneur pioneering in technology product innovation in the Internet and Media space. He is currently the co-founder and director at Mediology Software and also a former Infoscion and Microsoft, Seattle employee.

Manish can be contacted at

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