You’re not on Google+? What’s wrong with you? Facebook was so last week.
Yes, it’s true, there’s a new social network in town. Forget Friendster. Forget MySpace. Forget Google Buzz and Google Wave. Forget LinkedIn. Forget Twitter. Forget Orkut. Forget Plaxo. Forget Windows Live Spaces. Forget Yammer. Those are all crap. Now there’s Google+, and life will never be the same.
I’ve been using Facebook for about a year or two and have enjoyed it for the most part. However, the website has a number of drawbacks, particularly in that it’s not provided by either Google or Twitter. Bummer, right? Luckily, Google has fixed this situation by offering an alternative to Facebook. Google+ is the search giant’s social networking answer to both Facebook and Twitter, and it appears to be relatively successful. After just a few weeks of availability, Google announced that its Google+ service has 10 million users. That’s nowhere near Facebook’s 750 million users, but it’s still a solid start.
But is Google+ just the flavor of the month, or is it the social network of the future? I’ve been using both Facebook and Google+, and here are my thoughts:
The thing about Facebook is that everyone is on it. My mom is on it, my wife is on it, and a good number of my friends are on it. Yes, the privacy controls are crap. Yes, there are scams/hacks that seem to sweep through Facebook on a regular basis. And yes, it’s a locked down platform that makes it difficult for you to obtain information (like your friends’ phone numbers) that should rightfully be yours. But everyone is on Facebook, and it’s an easy way to rekindle old friendships and keep in touch with random acquaintances.
However, the design of Facebook is somewhat limiting. In order to friend someone, you both have to agree to be friends, and only then can you read each other’s updates. This is the opposite of Twitter, which allows you to broadcast your thoughts to the entire world unless you’ve privatized your profile. While there are benefits and drawbacks to both approaches, it’s nonetheless something to take into account.
Google’s social network is like a mixture of Facebook and Twitter. When posting updates, you can select the audience you want to deliver the update to: your immediate friends, your acquaintances, or the entire Internet. Google+ handles this through its “Circles” concept, which allows you to group people into different circles and then manage your updates accordingly.
And with Google+, just like with Facebook, you can comment on other people’s posts, and “like” stuff via Google’s “+1” button (which acts exactly like Facebook’s “like” button).
Also, Google+ launched in a limited, invite-only model, which may have added to its buzz factor:
Finally, there’s no Farmville on Google+ so far, which I consider a distinct advantage (but I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets added pretty soon).
The Bottom Line
John Sutter of CNN points out that Google+ allows you to “reboot” you presence on the Internet. Don’t like your Twitter and Facebook accounts? You can move over to Google+ and start anew, he argues. However, I don’t think that’s quite right. It’s not like you’re going to get a whole group of new friends or followers on Google+; you’re still going to be the same person. It’s just a new platform that will allow you to connect to the people you want to connect to. Google+ does have more controls for you to manage those connections, though.
The real issue with Google+ is that not everyone is on it yet. My mom got dragged onto Facebook in order to look at pictures of her grandkids, but it was a major accomplishment and I’m betting she won’t be interested in moving onto a slightly nicer social networking website.
Finally, we need to be clear about what Facebook and Google+ and the rest of the social networking providers are: they’re companies that want to make money. They’re not providing video chatting services for fun; they want to get you onto their site so they can put ads in front of your eyeballs (of course, most sites do that). Why is this important? Well, social networks are quickly becoming Internet users’ primary activity, which means that whatever company manages to dominate this space will become the de facto doorway to the Internet for most people. That’s a lot of power, and both Facebook and Google know it.
As for me? I’m going to skip Twitter because it’s idiotic (the 140 character limit is stupid and pointless and just makes you use abbreviations that render everything unreadable). I’m going to keep my Facebook account and only connect with people who I actually know and am friends with. And I’m going to use Google+ as my “public” social network, the place where I can interact with the people from my day job and the wider Internet community. So feel free to “friend” me on Google+ (or “plus” me or “Google” me or whatever).
I’m also going to start a MySpace page because I hear that site is the bomb diggity, bro.