Google + and the homogeny of social networking

As Google+ rocks up as the new cool kid at the social media party, stealing the glitter-ball-dazzle from Facebook, Twitter et al, it seems a good time to step back from those bright and colourful digital lights to consider its impact.

Having created a profile on Google+ and played a little with its various features, I fear that the impact, in terms of new attributes, at present, might be rather minimal.

What really became clear to me was that social networking appears, merely, to be homogenising rather than diversifying.

The age of innovation, from a front-end, user perspective, appears to be plateauing with the race for key digital players to create the ‘ultimate’ social networking platform, yet another holy grail that doesn’t exist, which can only lead to disappointment.

Facebook, at its inception, integrated a series of features to create its online platform, enabling users to connect and engage with friends and family. But it certainly was never a complete offering.

However, as new platforms such as Twitter and FourSquare appeared on the scene, suddenly there was a need to start driving things forward again. And so came the developments to integrate features similar to those that Twitter offered to the Facebook profile page and, of course, Facebook Places.

Still, no real innovation, more just a copy-cat exercise, in my view, to ‘keep up’.

In the same way, Twitter responded to FourSquare with its own defence to the geolocation war, creating an API to pinpoint where tweeters tweet from. Again, an exercise in treading water rather than demonstrating positive strokes.

Enter Google+.

I have to say I expected more. What is offered by Google+ is merely a repackaged version of the products that Google already offered, with elements of Facebook and Twitter bolted on.

Credit where credit is due, it is certainly more user friendly, but this product could, and more importantly should, have been released a long time ago. I’m afraid it’s far from groundbreaking.

Only weeks after the launch of Google+, Facebook made the announcement that it will be partnering with Microsoft-owned Skype to provide video chat – a feature already offered on Google+ and previously already present within the Google product portfolio.

Alongside this, Twitter announced plans to integrate a Facebook-style ‘wall’ feature, whereby users can write directly to friends’ from their respective profiles.

In both of the above cases, nothing new, no innovation and creativity, just more defensive behaviour in the battle for social networking supremacy: the race for a sort of digital gestalt.

The vision has become so focused on the marketing and monetising of these, now, super-brands, that the essence of what they were when they first went live has been lost.

So, let’s turn the spotlights down a smidge on the cool kids and redirect some of that attention to the geeks. After all, without them, this is a party that would never have started.

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