For all the hype it's been receiving in tech "circles" I don't believe that Google+ will be the Facebook killer they were dreaming it would be. Right now Google's tactic is to go safe by providing an alternative, yet not very dissimilar social network to their gargantuan user base. Not a bad strategy, but one that may take a few years to get them to a distant second place. If Google wants to make things interesting and make a genuine play for social, they need to get radical with their thinking. Here are three crazy ideas that may be just crazy enough to get Google+ to really compete with Facebook.
1. Throw away the current interface design -- in order to set itself apart Google+ needs to make a bold statement with its design. They may be offering some unique features, but visually it's a blatant copy of Facebook. Visual simplicity has always been Google's trademark, but mimicking the design of the big dog makes users feel like they are getting a cheap imitation of the original, not something groundbreaking, new and interesting -- three things the service needs to be in order to take users away from Facebook.
2. Take a 10% cut of app revenue -- For Google+ to retain its users' interest, it needs to offer more than just stream stories, which is where third party app developers come in. As in Facebook's relationship with Farmville developer Zynga, third party developers play a vital and often symbiotic role with their platforms. In order to instantly create a thriving social ecosystem and to drive developers to create great apps, Google+ needs to release their API stat and get developers' full attention by offering a 90-10 split of revenue vs. the 70-30 split that Facebook provides. Knowing that they stand to make an extra 20% on Google+ may be the deciding factor for many developers when considering which platform to develop for first.
3. Don't allow parents to join -- If there's going to be a new social network on the block then it will be decided first and foremost by millennial trendsetters. In order to become the next Facebook, Google+ needs to attract twenty-somethings and give them a feeling of exclusivity. Facebook had this baked into its initial offering by only allowing college students to sign up. It wasn't until the service hit an undeniable fever pitch that it was offered to everyone else. If Google+ restricts parents from joining they receive an instant edge. One of Facebook's big weaknesses is it's cool factor, which took a hit once kids saw their parents joining -- and worse -- using the service to keep tabs on what they were up to. Circles are Google+'s attempt to filter but they don't go far enough. After all, you're still only one wrong mouse click away from sharing your weekend beer funneling pictures with your parents rather than your friends. So how, you might ask would Google even know if you're a parent? Well they already know what you browse (Chrome, search), what you watch online (YouTube), what you read (Docs, Reader) and who you're interacting with (Gmail) -- they've even developed a car that drives itself. I'm guessing they can figure out if you've procreated.