Last week I was invited to join Google+, the new social networking tool from Google that looks to pose a pretty decent threat to the giant Facebook. It's been interesting to see what the differences are between the two sites, what might be incentives for switching over completely to Google+, and what reasons might keep some users from discovering it at all*.
At this point, there is not much going on in my Google+ stream yet. I am seeing less than five new posts a day from others. That could be because not all of the people who have added me are posting in a place that is visible to me. With Google+ it is much easier to post something so that just one person or only a certain group (circle) of people can see it. Some of the people who are my "Friends" on Facebook might only consider me an "Acquaintance" on Google+, for example. It might also be because most people who have joined Google+ are still on Facebook and don't want to bother posting the same things twice, knowing that most of their friends are still on Facebook. [Though the most obvious reason is because I only have 20 friends on Google+ vs 540 on Facebook. Duh...]
Posting pictures and videos is actually much easier on Google+. I am unfortunately not able to post any images from the internet on Facebook at this point, probably because they have such a problem with spam and have needed to tighten controls. Also, Google+ could almost get rid of my need to blog, since you are allowed to post there with seemingly no character limit. Facebook limits your post length to 420 characters, which I guess is better than Twitter's 140 character limit. I am less interested in the fact that I can chat with people on Google+, since I usually have G-Chat open when I'm on the internet anyway, but the "Hangout" group video chatting sounds kind of cool.
Most of the people I know who have joined Google+ at this point are people who have some connection to the Bay Area tech community, are people who have major gripes against Facebook, or who like the idea of getting invited to an exclusive club (or all three). In time, my guess is that most people will only slowly move over to Google+ as their friends do, but probably feel no major inclination to leave Facebook. For many of those who are not tech savvy, it is a big deal that they have managed to figure out Facebook at all (and some actually haven't even done that). They probably won't like the idea of learning to navigate a new site.
It will be interesting to see how things unfold. It does seem like the users who have tried Google+ are very happy with it, so it could completely replace Facebook in the way that Facebook replaced Friendster (what's Friendster, you ask?!) not that long ago. But, you never know what might happen. Google is aggressively monopolizing many areas of the cloud. Can they keep it up?
*The hover text is very important in this link.
UPDATE: I just discovered another cool thing about Google+. You can EDIT posts instead of having to delete and re-post if you discover a typo. That is awesome.