With over half a billion registrants worldwide, Facebook would appear to have a solid grip on the social media environment. What could threaten the grip of a company that large? Well, perhaps a larger company could, like Google, which recently bumped past a billion unique monthly users.
Google's recent launch of Google+ is a social networking service along the lines of Facebook and will pose a serious challenge once fully released (Google+ remains in a closed testing phase for now).
How are Google+ and Facebook similar? The established nature of social media has shaped the way users expect some processes to go, and Google+ is not trying to upset the apple cart on those. Statuses, links, and notifications all appear in similar manner to Facebook's display, and Google+ will feature streams, which basically equates to Facebook's news feed.
The differences are perhaps less striking because Facebook has been extremely successful, and Google's best method of competition may be through duplicating Facebook in its own image. Google+ has received some preliminary praise for its privacy policies, a long time sore subject for Facebook. As Google+ grows and attempts to monetize, though, it will be interesting to see how it uses its nearly boundless information to sell advertising. Google+'s circles feature replaces the friend list and has some unique drag-and-drop capabilities. Hangouts is a video chat function that will bring together as many as ten Google+ users at one time.
Google+ also has all of Google's other offerings to bolster its integration possibilities. When it comes to photos, Google+ has Picasa on its side. When it comes to mobile, Google+ has Android. And when users want to share anything from the web, guess which search engine Google+ has backing it. Add to that Google Mail, Google Maps, and Google Calendar, and it quickly becomes obvious that the infrastructure behind Google+ is like no other social media offering on the web. How Google+ will utilize and leverage this infrastructure, though, remains up in the air until Google+ is released fully to the public.