‘What?!!’ I hear you say.
Yes, Google+. And I actually believe them. Google, somewhat quietly, launched a feature called Google Author Rank a few months ago. That means that when you search for something on Google, if the author/journalist’s Google+ profile is verified and links to a relevant article, her link will show up first. This is obviously very useful not just for the writer herself but for the general public – verified and more relevant content is given priority above link-baiting sites, which is exactly as it should be.
Google is also slowly, incrementally adding new features that are improving the utility of the site: Communities, for example.
Lots of people, including me, are getting fatigued with Facebook. In the end though, it’s Google’s renewed business focus on search (experiments like Wave being retired as they fall by the wayside) that might lift them above Facebook, because that is what is going to boost usage of Google+. It is a philosophical pivot for them, but has rock-solid business motivations. As this article says:
Google doesn’t own social networking, but it does own search and email (and surprise! new Gmail signups automatically get Google+ accounts). With Author Rank, it’s outsmarting SEO spammers while forcing content producers to use Google+. They may not like it, but the alternative — risk losing influence, isn’t much better.
Google is smart. Very smart. Now if only they could renew the once-vibrant Google Reader community by bringing that back in to the fold.