Google+ is growing a lot now that it’s open to the public. It’s worth noting, but there is a much bigger picture in the social media competition conversation than Facebook users vs. Google+ users.
In Bradley Horowitz’s own words, “Google+ is Google itself. We’re extending it across all that we do—search, ads, Chrome, Android, Maps, YouTube—so that each of those services contributes to our understanding of who you are.”
There you have it. WHO YOU ARE. I would say it’s about who you are on the web, but those lines are getting blurrier by the day. Take Google Wallet, for example. If this becomes as widely adopted as Google hopes, you’ll be using it to purchase physical goods at physical stores on a regular basis. This isn’t just about online identity. It’s about identity.
Google+ is one of many gateways Google has for users to enter the Google universe and have that Google account available as their identity. Google has a tremendous advantage over Facebook in those terms. So many products. So many gateways. With Facebook, you’re either a Facebook user or you’re not. With Google, you may not be a Google+ users, but you may be a Gmail user or a Google Docs user or a YouTube user, etc. It’s all one in the same.
That’s not to say that Facebook is going to lose any ground here. Facebook already has 800 million users. That’s just ridiculous. Facebook has taken a very different path by essentially focusing on one product – the social network (and the platform around it), but they’ve done it better than anybody. They’ve done it so well that just about every brand needs to be involved in one way or another, whether it’s simply having a page or building apps, connecting content, logins, etc.
Facebook did things right when they needed to and blew every competitor in the social network space out of the water, and despite numerous feature additions, redesigns and other changes, there is no indication that it will be losing its spot in the social network chain of command.
The good news is that so far users don’t have to choose which identity they want to be their own. You can have a Google ID, a Facebook ID and a Twitter ID, and use them as you see fit. You can even have a Yahoo ID, a Microsoft ID, a LinkedIn ID, a MySpace ID, and whatever else you want (and that includes OpenID and things of that nature as well). What these companies stand to gain from being your primary ID is having you use more of their services, or spend more time with their products, which is when your ID becomes easier to monetize. Whether it be virtual currency or serving your advertisements, your ID is worth money. That may be a tough pill to swallow for some, but it’s how the world works.
You can live off the grid if you like, but it may get harder and harder to do so as more companies go paperless, and more online services find more ways to penetrate the physical world. Life may get harder to navigate without an online ID of some kind.
One very interesting element to all of this is that email still rules the Internet. Google ID? You get an email address. Even Facebook has email addresses now. To this day, you still need to have an email address to even sign up for Facebook.