Instead of reinventing social networking from the ground up, Google+ just copied the best qualities of all the other popular social networks, which is why it’s so amazing and gaining traction so quickly.
Here are some things that I’ve noticed they copied:
Everyone is used to Facebook’s layout. So why not lower the learning barrier by making the user interface the same?
Google noticed that users really loved Facebook’s “Like” feature. Leaving a comment is a lot of work but allowing people to easily give you feedback with a click of a button incentivizes more status updates. Google copied the “Like” with a “+1″ which functions identically.
Twitter’s Retweeting and Tumblr’s Reblogging
Who doesn’t love a reblog or a retweet? Google made it super simple to share your friends status messages with your followers.
It’s pretty cool when you can get an inside look at what your favorite American Idol is having for breakfast. Google makes following a possibility (something you can’t do on Faceb00k). This allows a one-to-many relationship and opens up the amount of connections you can have.
All top social networks (Quora, LinkedIn, Facebook) do whatever it takes to show you notifications. Google went to the extreme on this. You get updates at the top bar of all Google properties (Google.com, Google Reader, Gmail, etc) if you are signed in, and they also email you updates.
Color’s Nearby Tab
Google knew that early on peoples newsfeed would be pretty empty since most people would have less than 10 connections when starting out. So they adopted Color’s idea, which is to show you what people near you are posting. This allows you to feel an instant sense of community and engages you right away.
I’m not bashing Google here by any means. I love Google+ and I think they made a smart move by just going with what already works. Once they reach their 25M+ users next week, like PC Magazine predicts, then they can innovate like crazy and change the world.
Update: Awesome comment on Hacker News to this post:
I want to point out that so many companies get the “copy first” part right, but never get around to the “innovate later” part. Copy first is becomming a mantra. Facebook was a copy of The Face Book, in fact. The reason facebook is what it is is that they did get around to innovating later. The reason there’s no competition for the iPod is that the competition never got around to innovating (or in MSFT’s case, got around to it way too late.) – econgeeker