Can Google Plus topple Facebook?

Social networking is the one area Google can’t seem to unlock. But with Google Plus, it might just have found the key

Read our Google Plus review

A week ago, Google launched its latest attempt to break into social networking, Google Plus. The internet giant has successfully moved into email (Gmail), picture sharing (Picasa), blogs (Blogger), and video (YouTube) and its search and mapping remain ubiquitous. Surely, with Google Plus, it can finally get its social networking party started?

On paper, perhaps. But social networks like Facebook and Twitter are successful because they have achieved a critical mass of users, while others – such as businness network LinkedIn – target specific groups. Google has struggled, both with its collaborative Wave tool and later with Buzz, to offer us a viable social Third Way.

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Gaining critical mass is a black art; if you could do it by numbers, we’d all be making squillions as internet moguls. But Google has more clout to launch a successful social network than any other company (even the gigantic News Corp couldn’t stop MySpace falling from grace).

With Google Plus, it may succeed. Most of us have already got a Google login. Despite its size, most of us still believe Google’s open web intentions. Most of us have, at one time or another, objected to some area of Facebook policy. And most of us is what it will take to make Google Plus succeed.

In Stuff.tv's own poll, over 40 per cent of readers said they were "dying for an a decent alternative to Facebook" while just a quarter thought there wasn't room for another social network. When Google Wave was first announced, it generated only a third of the search interest of Google Plus. If those same ears continue to be pricked by the time we get to the public launch of Google’s latest venture, Facebook might want to ask Rupert Murdoch to get his chequebook out again.

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