At one month, Google+ already a 'major player'

The new social network takes on Facebook right out of the gate

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Also this week, some Google+ users were frustrated and angry that the site was shutting down accounts that didn't conform to its controversial naming policy. The network, however, moved quickly to modify its policy to smooth things over.

Despite that controversy, analysts say Facebook must be nervously eyeing its new competitor and trying to figure out how to stay a few steps ahead of the fledgling site.

Just a week after Google+ was introduced, for instance, Facebook announced a new partnership with Skype that brought video chat to Facebook. At the same time, the company unveiled a new group chat feature for the site.

Though the partnership must have been in the works for some time, the timing of the announcement seemed like a direct strike at Google+, which sports a feature called "Hangouts" that supports online conference calls.

Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, said during the Skype announcement that users should expect a lot of new features in the coming months.

Olds said Google+ clearly has become a big enough player in the market to make Facebook nervous... and to make it work a little harder. And that will only be a boon for social networking users.

"I think that Facebook is taking Google+ very seriously," Olds added. "Facebook would be insane not to consider Google and Google+ as their most formidable competitor to date. This isn't going to be just a six-month effort from Google. With Google+, they're in the social networking game for the long haul."

However, Enderle said Google's big challenge at this point is sustaining the momentum behind Google+. And that, he said, means staying away from privacy pitfalls with user data, and paying attention to customer satisfaction.

As for Olds, he noted that Google needs to start using all of its assets to promote Google+. "They want to start combining other Google tools, like Google Earth or Google Maps, into the mix," he said. "And they need to get the independent developers involved, as well."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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