After its release on June 28, 2011, Google+, Google's new social media platform, hit the 10 million user plateau in just 16 days, 836 days quicker than rival Facebook. Plus then became the fastest social website ever to reach 25 million users, hitting the mark in just 4 weeks.
Although Google+ obviously wouldn't mind stealing into Facebook's market, they are not yet positing themselves as a head-on challenge to the social media kings. Google Plus is not simply an alternative to, or improvement upon, Facebook. Though Google has introduced some innovations with the platform, particularly in the area of privacy, one of Facebook's more notable issues, the real significance of Plus' introduction to the social media conversation goes beyond a brand war; it could end up impacting the entire course of social media's future: "what's really at stake is which standard will eventually dominate the social layer of the Internet: the open web or the walled garden."
Google+ appears to be intended as a step in the direction of breaking down what has been called Facebook's "walled garden," a reference to the way in which activities on Facebook occur more or less within their own realm, cut off from the wider entity of the Internet. Google's plan could be to bring social networking back into the open web, where content can be, among other things: indexed for search purposes and made more available to advertising and marketing opportunities.
Its capacity to better accommodate internet marketing and advertising is likely where Google+ is the most attractive. As Dre Labre puts it: "Google knows what sites you're on, ads you're clicking on and what you're searching for, but the minute you go to Facebook, they lose you. With Plus as a social channel, you now have a seamless, ubiquitous social ecosystem," which will no doubt only further enhance the effectiveness of Google Analytics.
The million dollar question is: what type of impact will Google+ make if it turns out to be a success? Well, there is the possibility that Google may break down Facebook's "walled garden," only to more or less institute one of their own, if they actually do manage to gain dominance over social media platforms. Alternatively, Plus could instill itself as the 'social backbone' of the internet, ushering in a new era of inclusive social media, more available to the open web, ideally putting an end to platform fragmentation.
Instead of having multiple stand alone platforms, social media would become layered throughout the entire web, via interoperable platforms, that will allow for more sharing and synergy. There are indicators of this occurring, as users already have the option to use their Google and Facebook accounts to sign into some external websites and games. Email can be taken as a precedent for the potential realization of a 'socially layered' internet. Before electronic mail was standardized, most e-mail systems were closed and not interoperable, only when it became ubiquitous did e-mail truly reach its full potential.
There is genuine cause for optimism about Plus, but one only needs to consider such enterprises as Orkut, Buzz, and Wave, for evidence of Google's lackluster track record in social media. There are still many hurdles to overcome, and for now Google is taking it slow with Plus, introducing it incrementally. So though it is too early to crown Google Plus the champion of open social web standards, there are at least some signs that social media platforms, and perhaps the internet as a whole, is primed to head in an entirely new direction.
For more information, read Canadian Business' full article on 'Google Versus Facebook,'
or for more details on the social backbone concept, 'Google+ is the Social Backbone.'