Google recently announced some significant changes to Google Reader, its web based feed aggregator. Not only will there be a new look but Google will be removing some social features in order to drive adoption and use of its relatively new social networking and identity service, Google+. I use a number of Google services but Reader is definitely the one I spend most time in so I am probably going to be using Google+ more as a result. I got a Google+ invite from a friend when it was still invite only. I signed up and created a profile but have not done much with it and only have seven people in my circles. Google also announced recently that they will be discontinuing Google Buzz. Launched less than two years ago, Buzz was seen as an attempt by Google to compete directly with Facebook but it was a total flop and they are determined to make Google+ succeed where Buzz failed. One of Google’s main problems is that it started out as a search engine and over the years various services have been added but not properly integrated – apart from Google Reader there is also Gmail, Google Groups, Picasa Web Albums, Google Docs, Google Calendar etc.
Facebook was launched in 2004 (six years later than Google) and has always been a single integrated service. It wasn’t long before it reached a critical mass of users which resulted in huge growth. I started getting Facebook invites around 2006 but I held out until October 2008 when an old friend from the U.S. visited and mentioned various mutual friends who I would be able to re-connect with if I was on Facebook. By December 2009 I had about 150 Facebook friends and today I have just under 200 (I have a policy of only sending friend requests to, or accepting them from real people who I have met in real life, otherwise I might have had a lot more). All my Facebook friends are also in my Mac OS X address book, where I have about 470 contacts altogether, so at least 40% of people I know are on Facebook! This massive user base gives Facebook a huge advantage over any new rival services due to the Network Effect. However, Google+ does seem to be getting traction, specially in the U.S. where over 13% of adults have apparently signed up.
I don’t necessarily want to switch from Facebook to Google+ but I will try to find more friends who use it and add them to my circles. I may even start posting a bit, but then I don’t post much on Facebook anyway (if it’s just a few words then I will tweet it and if it’s fairly substantial I will post an entry here on this blog). Getting back to Google Reader though, I do “like” a lot of feed items and presumably after the change that will be done through G+ using a +1 button. In the meantime, to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible I followed the instructions on Google+ for deleting my Buzz account. I will probably also post something on Facebook asking friends who use Google+ to add me to one of their circles. Oh and here is my Google+ Profile.