Category Archives: Social Networking

Pinterest will now have to change its name if it fails to obtain a licence from Premium Interest

European Trademark Office rules Pinterest doesn’t own rights to its name

US social network Pinterest has lost grip of its European trademark rights

US social network Pinterest has lost grip of its European trademark rights

Social networking giant Pinterest lost its trademark battle against Premium Interest, a London-based news aggregation start-up, following a ruling by the European Commission Office for Harmonisation of the Internal Market (OHIM). The implications of the EU trademark office’s decision is that Pinterest could be forced to change its name in Europe.

Premium Interest, founded by Alex Hearn, filed for registration of its European trade mark in January 2012 – two years after Pinterest.com launched. Although Pinterest was active at this time, it had yet to formally enter the European market or even register its name in the US.

Pinterest tried to overcome its own lack of registration by taking advantage of a provision in the trademark regulations which protects well known marks. It argued that the Premium Interest application should be refused as it took unfair advantage of Pinterest’s reputation to register a similar name. However, in the view of the registry, Pinterest failed to prove it was well-known enough in the continent at the time of the registration.

Hearn’s legal representative, Mishcon de Reya’s Adam Morallee, said Pinterest will now have to change its name if it fails to obtain a licence from Premium Interest to use the name Pinterest. In the meantime, Pinterest remains defiant and is set to appeal the ruling. To win the case, Pinterest will need to demonstrate it had rights in Europe before Premium Interest registered its trademark. The site’s prominence in the US will not be considered.

This case highlights the dangers of not acting quickly to protect your brand name in the global marketplace. Indeed, Hearn has also registered its Premium interest trademark in other markets, including Australia.

A solid reputation in one country may be insufficient in a different jurisdiction if you aren’t the first to file for a trademark there, irrespective of the size of your business. This is of particular relevance to digital online businesses.

Given Pinterest’s reputation as a robust defender of its branding – from its Pin-it button, to its curvy P logo, and its discouragement of partners using variations of the words “pin” or “pinterest” as puns in their names – this is a serious blow to the social network.

The moral, as with so many trademark disputes, is to take action early to protect the investment in the brand by registering trade marks in your key markets. Pinterest is now set to face an uphill battle which, apart from the legal fees it has already incurred, will likely involve extortionate settlement fees or the costly and damaging requirement to rebrand.

IPKat 10th Birthday

10 Years of the IPKat!

IPKat 10th BirthdayIt was a pleasure to celebrate the 10th birthday of the IPKat yesterday with blogmeister Jeremy Phillips and friends, and having had a thoroughly enjoyable time I wanted to say a few words personally about the value Jeremy has brought to the IP community.

Managing and contributing to the IPKat, one of the most renowned, freely accessible resources of information for intellectual property enthusiasts and professionals, whilst balancing numerous other commitments like moderating and contributing to about 10 leading blogs on IP law, also set up by Jeremy, is a task Prof. Phillips does day in day out with flair and enthusiasm.

Jeremy’s innovative approach of using the internet to reach out to a wider audience beyond academics and practitioners is certainly worthy of recognition. Prior to the arrival of the internet, access to information on legal subjects would be provided in printed form. These publications would be housed in university libraries or practitioners would subscribe to the specialist magazines or journals. It was a very niche and specialist world, with considerable barriers to entry. Having set up the first trademark blog in the UK, Prof. Phillips was a pioneer of the use of blogging as a platform to promote the free and rapid exchange of ideas on IP and to entice the interested public to engage and read about IP issues which affect them.

Arguably Jeremy’s greatest contribution, is his peerless ability to build IP communities through writing, networking, and the events he organises, and his approach is always inclusive. His work has encouraged open international dialogue and cooperation, developed relationships between practitioners, and inspired among many an inquisitive attitude towards intellectual property that can only have a positive impact upon the way in which intangible rights benefit our society.

Jeremy’s degree of dedication to people is outstanding, as a teacher he regularly assists students in finding jobs within their chosen field, is constantly writing references for them, and has a knack of spotting and nurturing talent.  He regularly organises free seminars and events, and while developing an engaging community where there would have been none before, Jeremy also still finds the time to give individualised responses to all those who write to him or comment on his network of blogs.  Overall, it’s not an exaggeration to say that no other individual has shown this level of commitment to the IP community, and I’m looking forward to what Jeremy and the IPKat have in store for the next 10 years!

This post was co-authored by Stefano Debolini

What should your social media strategy be for multiple brands?

It is well known that social media can be an important and powerful marketing platform for businesses of all sizes, but what do you do if you have multiple brands, such as different products and services? As a small business do you create an identity on all the major platforms for each separate brand? What social media strategy would be most beneficial to your business?

Where people write books, there is a tendency to have a specific website and profiles for the book,  but is it really a good idea to have a distinct profile for your book and your business on Facebook, Twitter, Google plus and so on?

My own experience

Personally, this has been a question I have been asking myself recently. In order to market my new book Legally Branded, we created separate social media profiles for the book a few months ago, as well as maintaining the main Azrights profiles. However, now the book has been released for a few months, I find myself questioning the logic of having multiple social media profiles.

I think the main issue here really depends on what you are trying to achieve by having multiple social media accounts. For me, although it seemed logical to keep Azrights and Legally Branded separate as one was a book and the other a business, in reality the two profiles covered very similar topics which were primarily intellectual property, and branding. So whilst they were two separate products – a service business and a book – they essentially were promoting the same values. In fact Legally Branded was always intended to benefit the Azrights business rather than being something separate.

As business owners we learn all the time.  What I’ve been learning in the last few months is the increasing number of new social media platforms which keep popping up.  Many of them are essential to join if your aim is to optimise your website for the search engines.  So, as your search engine optimisation strategy increasingly means adding new social media platforms (such as PInterest) to the mix, it becomes critical to focus resources on the main business brand.  That means not spreading ourselves too thin. Therefore, for  it makes sense to merge the two profiles in order to concentrate our efforts on the Azrights profile

What is best for businesses with distinctly individual brands?

But what if your business has brands which are separate and are not necessarily going to cover similar products or talk about the same topics? Building engagement on social media is about communicating with your customers on their level so that you are posting content that they will be interested in.

If you have different brands that might have different audiences, then having multiple platforms could be a good idea to ensure that each profile is suitably optimised for its specific audience.

On the flip side, John Souza, argues that ‘having the same person [a single business] communicate between brands can confuse and irritate people’

On top of the risk of confusing people – there is also the question of resources mentioned earlier. Even managing one profile across the many different social media channels that now exist can be time consuming enough, but add another profile into the mix and you might really start to stretch your businesses capacity.

As Jane Treadwell-Hoye, an expert in customer operations, says, the ‘biggest challenge is being able to ensure consistent, excellent customer experiences across all’. She assured that it ‘can be done’ with the right resources. However, it really is important not to sacrifice customer experience if these resources are scarce.

Conclusion

Ultimately it comes down to the different products and the overall business aims. If your company has different brands, and each of them have unique and distinct personalities, and you have the capacity to maintain separate profiles to a high standard, then multiple profiles might be the best way to go.

Certainly for large companies such as Unilever that have a huge portfolio of brands, having separate profiles is almost mandatory. (Although of course a company does not have to be a house brand like Unilever to justify this tactic. Hershey’s has multiple Facebook profiles for their individual chocolate brands which has worked for them)

However, if your brands or products have not yet taken off as separate entities, or if you simply do not have sufficient resources, it is best not to follow the trend of having multiple profiles. It could be confusing to customers and could lead to two profiles that are only half as good as they could otherwise be. In such situations using the founder’s own personal brand for discussing different products and services might be a better option than compartmentalising the product into its own separate profile.

If you want to learn more about online profiling, and the different approaches a company can take when naming products and services, why not buy a copy of Legally Branded?

Pinterest and Copyright

Pinterest, a new social media site that allows users to ‘pin’ digital pictures on virtual pin boards, has recently faced a number of concerns regarding potential copyright infringement.

An American lawyer Kirsten Kowalski blogged about the social media site’s Picture-sharing boards as infringing copyright, announcing that she had deleted her Pinterest account when she realised that her use of the photo-sharing site could potentially make her break the law.  The blog post sparked a lot of attention, and spread fears about these potential legal issues.

The main problem was to do with the terms and conditions of the site, as they explicitly say that should there be any copyright infringement for reposting a copyrighted picture, it would be the user and not the site that would be culpable. The way the law works is that even if users are unaware they may be infringing copyright, this does not absolve them from legal action.

Despite their terms, which clearly state that users who ‘pin’ images they do not hold the rights to may be liable, the site itself seems to actively encourage sharing images. As Kowalski puts it ‘their lawyers say you can pin anything that you don’t own… but the site is saying that you can’. The site makes it very simple to repost (or rather pin) pictures from other sites around the web, which has irritated some photographers.

However, the question still remains, why is Pinterest facing these problems when other social media sites have not? As Technollama points out, Pinterest’s terms and conditions are similar to those of other social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. However, the primary difference between these sites, as discussed here, is that Pinterest’s whole business model surrounds the sharing of images. Although Facebook and Twitter do allow people to post images, this is not the main feature of either site.

Jonathan Klein, the CEO of Ghetty images, emphasizes this point. As TechCrunch noted, Klein is ‘not concerned about people playing with Getting photos, teenagers using them for school projects, and folks putting them up on their personal blog’.  However, despite this he has highlighted the fundamental problem with Pinterest: ‘We’re comfortable with people using our images to built traffic. The point in time when they have a business model, they have to have some sort of license.’ It is the very fact that Pinterest’s business model heavily encourages not only for people to upload their own images to the site, but to share others images that has become cause for concern. So far Pinterest is not making any money, however as Techcrunch noted, as soon as they do they will be liable to have to either pay or remove copyrighted images.

Pinterest’s approach to these concerns has been similar to sites such as YouTube. The company believes that it is protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and says that it will respond quickly to any copyright issues that might arise. Pinterest has been keen to listen to feedback from its users and has addressed any issues by updating its terms of service, details of which can be seen here.  On top of this Pinterest has also made it easier for people to notify the site about any copyright or trade mark infringements.

This means if you object to an image you own being pinned on the site, it should not be too difficult to persuade the site to take it down, assuming you have proof that it is your copyright.

Update – Tweeting Legals Event 17 January

In advance of the next Tweetinglegals tweet up on 17 Jan here are a few pieces of information that might interest those attending.

The venue Old Bank of England, is mid way between Chancery Lane and Bell’s Yard in Fleet Street. As you walk into the grand pub room bear right towards the bar, and then left past the bar and then turn right. We have the two adjoining downstairs rooms on the left.  They’re right by the bar area.  So, there will be more space to mingle than last time we held the tweet up in that pub as we only had one room then.

Lilia will be sitting at the entrance by the rooms till about 8.30 or 9.00 pm. Please give her £5 per person to cover the cost of food/use of the space. She will have labels so you can write out your name, and she’ll have the list of attendees so please tick off your name. This is so we can mention you in the write up of the tweetup.

In feedback report last time we held the tweet up at that venue one person said they thought £5 should cover food and a drink.  I’m afraid £5 does not go that far these days, especially in a venue like the Old Bank of England!  So, you’ll have to also buy your own drinks.

Earlier in the evening there’ll be some crisps, but otherwise no food until 7.45 pm. I’ll try and keep an eye out and make sure nobody goes without food if they arrive later on.  However, if I don’t notice that there’s no food and you’re there without anything to eat, do let me know. We’ll assess the finances and if there’s a surplus we’ll order more food, and/or a few bottles of wine later on.

Although the time given for the tweet up is 6.30-9pm, I fully expect many of you will stick around much longer than that. The organised part of the evening ends at 9pm, and personally I’ll probably leave around then as I have a busy day on 18th.  So if you’re hungry after 9pm, please understand that if there’s no food it’s because the party has officially ended…

If you haven’t responded yet please let us know whether you will be attending or if your plans have changed and you are unable to make it, please update your status: RSVP.  We are still in the process of arranging the catering for attendees, and so it would be much appreciated if you could help keep our numbers accurate.

I look forward to seeing you all on the 17th!

News Reporting Post Social Media and Riots

The London riots brought chaos to the city for a few nights, and at times the looting and violence spread faster than news sites could keep track of them, leaving many to turn to social media for their source of news. Often TV coverage became unreliable, and the BBC played looping footage of past events, whilst rioting in different areas was still taking place. Twitter became the fastest method for the public to find out what was happening around London, and to check if their area had been hit by the riots.  

The advantage social media has is its immediacy, something traditional news channels cannot compete with easily. Due to the fast paced nature of the riots, the speed of social media really came into play.  As Darcy Mitchell of The 7th Chamber put it, ‘for one night social media beat the sleeping giants of old style media to their own game: front line reporting in the heart of the action’. News websites tried to keep up with the riots, setting up live blogs to follow the action, but they still did not manage to keep up with the ever- unfolding events. At times even the traditional media relied on social media for the most up to date information on the riots.

Some media operations such as the Guardian and Sky News did set up live blogs, which helped to communicate the true scale of what was happening across London better than TV could. However, although these operations received large amounts of traffic, it was Twitter that benefited the most during the riots. Experian noted this, saying ‘The real-time sharing of information through Twitter has made the platform the ideal discussion platform to spread updates on major news events like the riots, and yesterday (8 August) was Twitter’s biggest ever spike in UK traffic online’.

More Fiction than Fact?

Interestingly, rather than seeing social media as a totally new way of spreading the news, it might be seen as a return to the old days before news corporations existed to report on major events. In those days news relied on word of mouth to be spread. Obviously, back then word of mouth did not have the capacity to spread as quickly it can through social media. However, there is a downside and a difference to this style of news telling. As social media consultant Matt Rhodes said: ‘There’s a danger of thinking that because something is on Twitter, it’s true. People have some kind of trust in things that are published’. Whereas when news is spread verbally, the majority of people take it with a pinch of salt, news reported on Twitter or Facebook is taken more as fact.

At times rumours were circulated just as much, and perhaps even more than facts during the riots. As social psychologist, Aleks Krotoski, stated, ‘the problem with social media or the internet is how quickly this information can spread. Misinformation has been around for a really long time, but historically there have been gatekeepers to confirm things externally’.

Amongst rumors published via social media were claims the Camden Roundhouse had been set on fire; groups of hooded youths were heading towards Holloway, and even that rioters had attacked London Zoo, setting various animals free.

Yes, the use of Twitter and Facebook to spread news can sometimes create more fiction than fact; however,we are nevertheless seeing a fundamental change in how news is being reported. Before the age of social media, journalists acted as gatekeepers to information, where news corporations held the power to spreading news.

Now, social media has given power to the public to report news themselves.

This is not to say that traditional media is being replaced by social media.  Many journalists Tweet alongside the public, separating fact from rumors and providing more trustworthy accounts of the riots. Social media represents a new element to news reporting. We still need the traditional media to provide official accounts of events in the world, but what social media allows is for the public to add their own comments and analysis on events, arguably giving a more diverse voice and democratic way of news reporting. Social media allows those who are personally witnessing events unfolding to report what is happening.

#TweetingLegals September Tweet Up

Thank you to all those who took the time to complete a survey on twtpoll on your experience of the 15 August tweet up. We received some excellent feedback from those who attended, but the survey is no longer available to detail here.  The results indicated you felt the organisation and the running of the night was a huge success. However, one or two of you thought The Knights Templar space allocated to us was a bit cramped, and we agree.

So I have found another venue for the 26 September tweet up which I know well.  It is in the same area, the Old Bank of England, in Fleet Street.  We will have more space to mingle, and as one review puts it, it has ‘great food, a relaxing atmosphere and excellent service.’            

If any of you have special dietary requirements please let us know as we will be pre-ordering the food, and I will be able to make special arrangements for you.

Please be sure to RSPV – the sooner the better – so we can get an accurate idea of numbers.  There are two possible rooms we could secure, one would suit up to 20 while the other would be appropriate if we get at least 40 wanting to attend.

It would also be worthwhile joining the Group if you haven’t already done so, so you hear about future events – Join Here.

I look forward to meeting you at the next Tweet up. In the meantime, Happy Tweeting!

Social Media: Boon or Bane?

In the wake of the riots, which have spread throughout England, many are blaming social media as being the tool used to orchestrate the violence and destruction. We have previously written about the Student Protests and the revolution in Egypt, and the role social media played in each of these events. Now we have yet another instance of the power of social media.   

A week ago the British Prime Minister David Cameron is reported to have said that the ‘free flow of information’ can sometimes be a problem. He stated that when ‘people are using social media for violence, we need to stop them.’ The Government is blaming social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook for helping to contribute to the cause of such mass violence and destruction throughout the country.  There is also some discussion of banning social media sites.

Indeed much of the violence was orchestrated via Twitter and Blackberry’s instant messaging service, BBM. In particular, Blackberry’s messenger system seems to have been the communication device of choice between the rioters, with a number of BlackBerry users receiving instant messages suggesting riot locations. According to Mike Butcher, editor of TechCrunch Europe, ‘while Twitter has largely been the venue of spectators to violence and is a handy public venue for journalists to observe, it would appear the non-public Blackberry BBM messaging network have been the method of choice for organizing it’.

Each coin has two faces!

However, although Social media may have been used as a method to spread violence throughout London and the rest of the country, it has not just been used as a tool to spread destruction. Both Twitter and Facebook were used to organize cleanup efforts in the areas hit by the riots, as well as calls for peace after the Tottenham riots on Saturday. Additionally, these sites were used by people to show support to the police in the wake of the riots, with the number of people following the force on Twitter jumping from 3,000 to 13,000 and hits on Facebook increasing from 2,000 to 8,000.

So is it appropriate to enforce bans and shutdowns of social media sites in the wake of the riots?   While these sites are a powerful tool that may be used to coordinate the masses on scales that would previously have been impossible, is it really on to ban them?  What about freedom of speech?  As Matthew Ingram of tech blog GigaOm stated, ”It may be tempting to smother that kind of speech when a government feels it is under siege, as Britain seems to feel that it is, but doing this represents nothing less than an attack on the entire concept of freedom of speech, and that has some frightening consequences for any democracy.” Interestingly, Labour seems to be on the side of the Government on this issue, with the shadow culture secretary Ivan Lewis stating ‘free speech is central to our democracy but so is safety and security.’

Curtailing the freedom of speech?

This is not the first instance where social media sites have been banned in an attempt to stop the spread of violence and unrest. The recently overthrown totalitarian Egyptian Government used this tactic in the wake of the Egyptian Revolution. The regime blocked methods of communication, disconnecting the country from the Internet, blocking sites such as Twitter, and disrupting mobile networks. If what happened there is anything to go by, blocking methods of communication did not stop the revolution in Egypt, and seems unlikely to quell any further riots in the UK.

Blocking social media channels will do nothing to solve the root problem that was the cause of the unrest, although it would undoubtedly make it harder for rioters to organize themselves.   

Representatives of Facebook and Twitter have agreed to meet with the government, but both are opposed to being censored or blocked in the UK. Alec Macgillivray, Twitter’s general counsel said ‘we don’t always agree with the things people choose to tweet, but we keep the information flowing irrespective of any view we may have about the content’.

We will be watching to see if this proposal gets passed through, but what do others think about it?

A user interface, not so user friendly!

Twitter last week announced that the old version of its interface will be completely replaced by the new version.

The company stated in their official Twitter feed, ‘If you’re currently using the Old Twitter, we want to let you know that you’ll be upgraded to New Twitter this week’.

Twitter has warned users of the impending change since it rolled out its new version back in September 2010, so this news has hardly taken users by surprise.  There are some users who are complaining about the change, but this seems to be only a small percentage of its users.

Upgrade or degrade?

When Twitter first introduced its new version it gave its users the option to ‘try it out’ and let them revert back to the old version whenever they wanted to. Some might believe that Twitter should have made the permanent change to its new version months ago, but by giving users plenty of time to adjust to the idea of a new version of the site, Twitter has managed to keep the majority of its users happy.

By contrast Facebook’s methods of introducing new changes are somewhat more drastic and abrupt.  When the company decided to step up its game in response to the launch of Google Plus, it announced a new video chat feature.

A couple of weeks ago I was given the option to ‘try out’ Facebook’s new Sidebar chat. I decided to give it a try, assuming that the option to revert back to the old chat would still be available. However, when I realized I didn’t like this new chat, there was no option to revert back.

I’ve since found out that Facebook’s sidebar chat feature has caused numerous complaints from Facebook users, with a group on Facebook called ‘I hate Facebook sidebar chat, with over 25,000 likes. Usually any major upgrade has caused a backlash of users against the changes.

Normally the negative comments surrounding upgrades can be put down to people simply disliking change, however in the case of the new sidebar chat the critiques seem well warranted.

Previously Facebook chat showed a small chat box on the lower right displaying which of your friends are currently online, which was a simple and easy design. However now the new chat takes up 20% of the screen and stretches from the top to the bottom of the right hand side of your screen. Whereas before only those online were shown on your chat box, now chat shows a list of people who Facebook has decided you would most like to speak to.

So what exactly has caused so much criticism about Facebook’s new chat? There are multiple issues that have come up in relation to this new chat. One of the main complaints raised is that that the list of people now shown on your chat, are people that Facebook thinks you want to talk to, giving you no option to make any changes. According to Facebook, friends displayed on your list are those who you ‘interact with most frequently’. However, a number of the people displayed on my chat list are people I never talk to, and reading other critiques online it seems that this is the case for most people. Another complaint is that Facebook lists friends in alphabetical order. However, there is no scrollbar on chat, meaning that you cannot see everyone online and those who are at the bottom of the list aren’t going to appear in chat lists.

So far reading through others’ comments about the new chat feature, I have not seen a single positive comment. There may well be some people who are very happy with the sidebar chat, but the responses are overwhelmingly negative.

Survival of the fittest!

With the launch of Google Plus, attracting already over 10 million users, inadequacies such as this might be something that drives devoted Facebook users over to Google Plus. Apparently, amongst comments made about the Facebook sidebar chat, some users are threatening to stop using Facebook due to this feature, and others seem to be contemplating moving over to Google Plus instead.

One of Facebook’s biggest mistakes is not allowing its users to revert back to the old chat, despite advertising the new chat as something to try out.

With both Facebook and Twitter having introduced new layouts recently, Twitter has managed to avoid the backlash that has struck Facebook. One lesson to learn from this is that a gradual approach to big redesigns works best. Not giving people the option to revert back to the old feature so they can decide for themselves what friends they most want to talk to, is a clear example of how not to do things.   It is ultimately users who can make or break a business, therefore letting them have input is vital.

Google Plus – Social Network

There is much speculation as to whether Google’s social network, Google Plus could be the next big thing in Social Media.  Last week we discussed Google’s naming strategy Here we will explore what people are saying about Google Plus.

Trial service

Google Plus launched with a trial service which only those invited to were able to join.  This created an illusion of exclusivity about the site, with invitations to join being highly coveted.  The site claims to have ‘temporarily exceeded’ capacity, having over 10 million users.

As a social network site to rival Facebook, it is one of Facebook’s strongest adversaries.

Google’s move into social media is a response to the challenge it faced as its position as the main method of accessing online information was compromised by Facebook and Twitter. The average U.S. Internet user spent 375 minutes on Facebook in May, and 231 on Google.

Better than other social networks?

As well as having similar features to other Social Networking sites such as Facebook, Google Plus has added a few extra unique features, such as what  Google calls Hangouts, Circles and Sparks in its demo.

The Circles feature allows users to place their friends and contacts into specific circles, like you would do ‘in real life’. Rather than grouping all contacts together, Google allows you to separate them into categories, such as family, work friends or those you go out drinking with.  So far Circles has been the most widely applauded feature of the service.

Vic Gundotra, the senior vice president for engineering at Google explained, ‘ Not all relationships are created equal’ adding that Google was trying to bring ‘the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software’.

Recreating what happens in real life    

Google Plus has carried over this desire to recreate what happens in real life to some of its other features.

Hangouts allow friends to meet-up via the web. Essentially it is a method to video chat as a group. To ‘hangout’, all you have to do is click on the Hangout button and invite members from a specific group to join you.

Sparks allows users to create areas of interest and then share them with friends via Google Plus. Also this feature allows users to find other areas of interest based on current ones. Each topic will get its own Spark page where there will be links to related photos, articles etc. This feature taps into what social networking is all about: people sharing information, videos, and interests with others.

So far Google refers to its Social Media site as a ‘project’, implying that what’s on show, might only be the start. Only time will tell whether Google Plus’ launch success will continue.

Will Google Plus be the next big Social Networking site?

Despite the immediate success of  Google Plus, is it enough to attract 700 million users away from Facebook?  Will Facebook be forgotten like MySpace has been?

Privacy

Privacy has been a huge concern on Social Media sites. Facebook specifically has come under scrutiny over privacy concerns with apps such as Facebook Places.

When creating Google Plus, Google learned from its previous failures:  ‘We learned a lot in Buzz, and one of the things we learned is that there’s a real market opportunity for a product that addresses people’s concerns around privacy and how their information is shared’. Google’s decision to create a Social Networking site that takes these concerns into account will give it an edge over Facebook.

Facebook’s privacy settings are notoriously complicated and confusing, leaving users unaware they are sharing information with more people than they intended.  Additionally, many criticize Facebook’s misuse of personal information for advertising purposes.

Google Plus has a short, plain English Privacy Policy

In contrast, Google Plus’s privacy features are easier to use, and its privacy policy is significantly shorter, and easier to understand than Facebook’s.

One of the ways Google Plus has escaped many of the privacy issues that have plagued Facebook, is by introducing the Circles feature. ‘We believe online sharing is broken and even awkward. Our online tools are rigid. They force us into buckets — or into being completely public.”

Google hopes its Circle feature will help eliminate this problem. By allowing users to share their posts or photos with specific Circles, rather than with all their contacts, Google Plus solves one of the privacy problems that Facebook has encountered.

By placing friends into particular circles, posts or messages can either be made public, or directed at specific circles of friends. No longer will statuses, photos or wall posts reach the eyes of any and all friends or contacts. Facebook does have a similar feature, Lists, but this is a lot more effort to use and often goes unnoticed by Facebook users.

Given that Google Plus has addressed the one main complaint consistently leveled at Facebook, it’s positioned itself cleverly.

Is Google Plus too late?

However, one question many are asking, is whether Google Plus is too late to challenge Facebook with its 700 million active users in the US and UK.

Microsoft’s attempt to launch its own online search engine Bing proved incapable of competing with the well-established Google. Despite Google Plus having a number of good qualities, it too may be too late to compete.

Some point out that Google, with its one billion users, already has more numbers  than Facebook. What Google has done is played this to its advantage by creating a notifications box at the top right of all its sites. This means anyone using any of Google’s services, will be enticed into looking through notifications and friends posts on Google Plus, therefore gradually spending more time on Google products than on Facebook.

Disruptive technology

Experts of social networking trends say Google Plus is going to disrupt Facebook’s so far unhindered success.

Google Plus is still in its trial stage, and has yet to go on general release. Google Plus has a few new interesting features that Facebook lacks, as well as sorting out some privacy issues that have been concerning certain Facebook users. The site definitely has potential to prove a threat to Facebook, but the main question is whether there is enough to drive the vast number of users away from their current social networking site Facebook.

It will be interesting to see what happens, but more competition is bound to improve the lot of users.