The Google+ social network has been a long time coming and fills a missing piece in Google's ever expanding portfolio of services. Google has been slow to formulate a coherent social networking strategy, which is more than an oversight given the assets Google has in this area, and the fact that strong social networks have scale, thriving developer communities, big audiences, and a monetization strategy based on advertising. This is core to Google's own interests - and of course other social networks already established in the market.
The biggest challenge for Google is how it can differentiate its social network against Facebook. Google needs to show people that it is more than a Facebook clone and can offer features that are unique or do things better than Facebook. This won't be easy as Facebook is quick to introduce new features and has had the benefit of being able to watch the trial of Google + prior to its beta launch this week.
However there is no question that Google will give Facebook a run for its money as Google has a wealth of social media assets to draw, some of the more obvious being YouTube, Picasa, Orkut Google Friend, Google Blog Search, Google Latitude and Maps. We would also expect Google to weave gaming into the social media mix, particularly around mobile where it has made several social gaming related acquisitions such SocialDeck. In fact, mobile will be a key card for Google given the rapidly growing base of Android devices.
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