If you think Google’s search engine empire has already hit its peak, think again. Over the past few months, there have been striking additions to the Google brand, making its portfolio more diverse than ever before. In a battle with search engines such as Yahoo and Bing, Google still dominates worldwide, carrying almost 90% of the search market shares as of March 2011. Alexa also reports the search engine as the most visited website in its Top 500.
Google+: Join the Club (When They Let You)
Spearheading this objective to keep pace as the clear cut number one search engine is the recent advent of Google+, a social network that is Google’s answer to Facebook. The project is still in its limited trial mode, as final tests are being done before its full release. The only way to get in is by direct invite by Google or via an invite by someone who was already invited, and that’s no guarantee you’ll get in either. Right now the project gives off a VIP-in-the-club vibe due to its intense exclusivity, and the increasing number of people clamoring for invites. Check out the Google+ project details for yourself.
Google+ is capitalizing on features Facebook hasn’t utilized yet. The first example of this is Google’s creation of friend “Circles” which enable the user to sort his or her friends into groups. This way you can distinguish co-workers and childhood friends without having to maneuver your way through every friend. The best function of Circles is the ability for the user to set different privacy settings for each of them. No longer will you have to worry about your boss seeing photos of what you did last Friday night, even if you want college friends to see them.
The circles aren’t even going to be Google+’s top draw, as the project is introducing “Hangouts,” a new face-to-face chat that works like an old internet chat room; multiple friends can enter and leave as they please. It even allows you to view YouTube videos with your friends in real-time. Mark Zuckerberg announced on July 6, 2011, a week after the Google+ reveal, that Facebook has partnered with Skype to enable video chatting of its own, as well as group chatting and a new chat design. This announcement is a direct sign of the competition that stems between the two online powers.
Although private now, Google+ is taking a very open direction. All private accounts will automatically be deleted by July 31 as a means to make sure every page is public when the project is finalized. Even though all profiles will be public, only the person’s full name will be displayed for everyone to see, so the personal information you don’t want disclosed will not be shown. Google+ announced on July 12 it had privatized the gender option to accommodate businesses as well as those uncomfortable displaying private information.
Solve a Problem and Win a Prize!
Google is apparently also now in the problem solving business. Just a few days ago, their subsidiary company, Slide, launched Prizes.org. This is a contest website where people post questions and problems with the intention of paying a cash prize to whoever comes up with the best answer. The buzz (pun intended) about Google+ has most likely kept Prizes.org on the DL, but it is certainly an intriguing concept due to the simple money making potential it gives users. The site comes off looking like a more polished Craigslist with more transparency. Visitors to the site vote to determine the best answer and the one with the most votes wins the cash.
Slide also launched an iPhone app in March known as the Disco Messenger, which gives users the function to start a texting chat room on their phone with up to 99 people. It can be downloaded at the iTunes store for free. This seems like an alternate version to the Google+ mobile feature Huddle, which also features real-time text chat with multiple users.
Streamlining the Google Brand: The Final Step
Popular online venues Blogger and Picasa will be no more within the next six weeks – in name. With the plan to promote Google+, and the Google brand in general, Blogger and Picasa will soon be known as “Google Blogs” and “Google Photos” respectively. Both brands already had enormous followings under their individual names, but the name changes signal an intention to integrate both into usage of Google+ when it finally launches publically. Whether people like the changes or not, it is clear Google is dead set on making their brand the most popular in today’s global online market