Developers believe Google+ can beat Facebook

A new survey of mobile developers finds Google's innovation in its new social network and its integration into existing products may help the service eventually topple Facebook.

Jay Greene Former Staff Writer
Jay Greene, a CNET senior writer, works from Seattle and focuses on investigations and analysis. He's a former Seattle bureau chief for BusinessWeek and author of the book "Design Is How It Works: How the Smartest Companies Turn Products into Icons" (Penguin/Portfolio).
Jay Greene
3 min read

Available since just more than a month ago and still only in a testing mode, the Google+ social network has already convinced some developers that it will eventually catch up with rival Facebook.

The new quarterly survey of mobile application developers by Web development tool maker by Appcelerator and market research firm IDC found that two-thirds of the 1,621 respondents to the question "Can Google+ catch up to Facebook?" replied yes. The reason: more than 68 percent of the respondents believe Google's other assets--search, YouTube, and maps, among others--trump Facebook's social graph lead.

Of course, Google+, which remains a "project" for the Web giant that only lets users in via invitations, has 20 million users, a far cry from Facebook's 750 million users. It's traffic may already be dipping as tech fashionistas look for the next big thing. But developers, cognizant of disruptive changes that trip up market leaders, are always keen to latch onto the next breakthrough. The survey suggests that many believe Google+ could be it.

"Developers are constantly going back and forth on the current real market need and on what's coming up," said Scott Schwarzhoff, Appcelerator's vice president of marketing and one of the surveys co-authors. "Google+ poses an interesting opportunity that catches their eye."

Never mind that Google+ hasn't given developers a set of application programming interfaces to write to yet. The developers in the Appcelerator survey are already keen to write programs for the new service.

The survey found that 72 percent of the respondents plan to write to Google+ APIs in the next 12 to 18 months. That's just one percentage point behind the number that plan to use Twitter's APIs, and only 11 percentage points behind Facebook.

Why so much enthusiasm for a brand-spanking-new service that doesn't even offer APIs yet? The respondents were bullish on Google's innovation with Google+, noting the Circles feature that lets users segment their friends into different groups, such as family, co-workers, or soccer team, and direct updates specifically to those groups. What's more, these are mobile developers and they believe that Google will bake Google+ into its Android mobile operating system, making it easy for them to create programs for devices.

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Schwarzhoff believes that mobile developers will predominantly add Google+ features to existing applications, rather than gin up new programs made specifically for the service. But those programs will take advantage of features such as Circles that, the respondents believe, will improve customer loyalty by enabling more targeted use of their applications.

"What you want to do is drive reuse of applications," Schwarzhoff said. "Any feature that helps me do that stands tall."

Appcelerator and IDC conducted the survey June 20 to June 22. The companies surveyed 2,012 developers who use Appcelerator's Titanium application development platform. Appcelerator said that 30 percent of the respondents classified themselves as independent developers and the other 70 percent came from business. And 43 percent of the respondents live in North America, 33 percent live in Europe, the remaining 24 percent are scattered throughout the rest of the world.