Sanday Chongo Kabange in BERLIN, Germany
The newly unveiled social networking site by internet search giant, Google Inc. has hit Africa with a bang of severe mixed cocktails, promising much popular and archrival Facebook a run for their money.
Google Inc. has launched a social networking site called Google Plus (Google+ or G+) with similar or even better features than Facebook but the race for supremacy in the social networking business is yet to be highlighted clearly.
Although exact user figures are yet to come by, it is a known fact that in a very short span of time, Google+ has attracted many users worldwide.
In the US, where a limited field trial version of Google+ was launched before being rolled out to the rest of the world, one survey found that about 4.5 million people had joined Google+ within weeks of its launch. This figure is said to be climbing ever since.
This is the first time that social networking kingpin, Facebook is facing serious competition since it was launched in February 2004. As of July, 2011, Facebook had 750 million active users.
Facebook is the highest ranking and most popular social networking site in Africa. The interactive networking site is not only used as a socialite communication tool but also as a platform to mobilise young democrats pressing for democratic and political reforms in suppressed African states like Egypt, Swaziland, Tunisia and Zimbabwe.
The global launch of Google+ field trial has not left the perceived “dark continent” in the dark. African social network users have been signing up on Google+ and offering their early impressions on the search giant’s new networking site.
Egidio Vaz, a communication and web marketing specialist from Mozambique who recently joined Google+ said, “well, am not used to it yet but I think it can add value to my day-to-day job.”
Kenyan multimedia journalist, Claire Mitchell, gave her first impressions. “One thing like about it (Google+) is that I can have a video conversation with more than one person unlike Facebook where you restricted to one person at a time.
An ardent social network user from Zambia, Irwin Fox Mainza said, “I have signed up to Google+ and I love it already. From what I have experienced so far, Google+ has potential to outdo Facebook. I just hope it will be able to allow connection with other applications. Good stuff so far.”
With all the hype and raised hopes that have come with Google+, some newly signed up users are not very content with the new social networking site. Issues related to privacy are creeping into the Google+ buzz.
What worries many users doubt their presence on social networking sites is the protection and preservation of their personal data.
There is fear that once one’s private data has been entered into a social networking site, the protection and preservation of that personal data is undermined.
Like Thabo Mbuli of Durban in South Africa observes, “I have refused to get on many of these socialising websites because I fear for my personal details being exposed to the public through Internet. I am not sure I will even sign up with this Google thing because I already deactivated my Facebook.”
Zambian blogger, Gershom Ndhlovu said Google+ was tacky compared to Facebook. “With Facebook, you just go straight into social networking business. With G+ you have to remove all the wrappers to get to the business. G+ needs a Smartphone app to make it easily accessible and enjoyable otherwise they risk going the way of G+ buzz”.
While debate rages on and the battle for top notch leadership continues in the social networking business, Africa will set at bay and only add up to user figures once both Google+ and Facebook face –off for a “hit or miss” tournament.