I finally found the time to get off my bum and jump into this new new thing called Google+ (pronounced “Google Plus” presumably). This is the Web behemoth’s new social networking platform that was rolled out on limited testing among a select set of users. I got roped in by a friend who was a little bit more persistent than a few others who invited me in getting me to make the jump.
So here I am with my initial thoughts…
Google Plus looks like Facebook.
It’s got a news feed (called a “Stream“) where shout-outs, links and photos that people post (sorry, share) show up pretty much with the same look and feel that they do on your Facebook News Feed. You also comment on your Stream items and discuss in the ensuing comment thread in much the same way.
So for the experienced Facebook user, everything is immediately intuitive with regard to using this aspect of Google Plus.
At its core networking function, Google Plus operates like Twitter.
You don’t request “friendships” from people. You add them to circles. Conversely you, in aspiring to be a well-connected member of this new community, too hope to be added to other people’s circles. Because you are free to create as many of these circles as you want — one for every aspect of you social life; e.g., one for family, one for friends, one for acquaintances, one for professional contacts, etc. — networking in Google Plus is like a multi-channel version of the Twitter experience.
The best part is that only you have visibility over which person you pull into which circle. This means that no one knows who among them you place in your “Friends” circle and who among them you place in your mere “Acquaintances” circle. It also means there is no stopping you from creating a circle named “People I hang out with but wouldn’t want my parents to meet” or “Assholes I don’t really like but nonetheless need to keep close tabs on,” if you know what I mean.
As such, you yourself would want to be added to the right sort of circles. That of course depends on your social networking aspirations. Maybe your idea of a successful social networking experience is to be well-liked by as many people as possible, and therefore would prefer to be in the real “Friends” circle of as many of members of your network as possible. Others perhaps, don’t aim to please but aim to be heard, and therefore aspire to be in the most frequently-checked circles. Indeed, from my own experience, real “Friends” are not necessarily one’s most frequented source of useful information for one’s work or hobbies. Either way, you don’t know and don’t get to determine which circle you get added to by the members of your network. It comes down to how you behave online that determines this.
Google Plus seems to be a well-engineered mash-up of Facebook and Twitter — specifically Facebook’s look combined with Twitter’s networking philosophy.
Google is a more open platform and is borg-like in the way it assimilates user accounts not just from its own portfolio of online products but from other third-party apps as well. For example, there is a function within Google Plus that allows you to “link” your Facebook and Twitter accounts (the implications of which, I am still trying to get my head around to taking stock of).
You may already be an existing user of other Google products (such as Gmail, YouTube, and Blogger), or an Android user who downloads apps from Android Market. So in that respect, Google pretty much has you by the nuts. Joining Google Plus is likely to entangle you further in this little-understood world of linked accounts, identities, and user experiences.
Google have cobbled together a pretty good (albeit yet sparse, for now) experience in its new toy. So proceed with caution as the interface is so intuitive and the experience reasonably absorbing enough that, as you go, you might lose track of exactly what you are sharing to whom and which accounts you are bring into your Google family of “linked” identities and accounts.
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