Not About Wine: Early Thoughts On Google+

I’m cautiously excited about Google+. Here’s why.

I’m not a big Facebook user anymore. I’ve been on that damn site since 2004 and have seen it become so overloaded with noise that it has become useless to me beyond the two essential functions of getting in touch with my more distantly acquainted “friends” and organizing my friends into groups for like-interest messaging. And as an avid Twitter-er ( my need for interesting links, observations and ephemera is more than fulfilled, all without the risk of being interrupted by a fifth cousin in Hanford’s diatribe about a Congress-Created Dust Bowl.

So, after squeaking in during that brief window yesterday where Google opened up enrollment to anyone with a Google Account, my early assessment is that Google+ accomplishes everything that I need from Facebook (or at least will once it’s open to everyone) without the clutter. Here’s why I like it:

  1. It’s streamlined. Profiles are kept down mostly to the LinkedIn basics of school and jobs with a box for “bragging rights,” which I suppose is where you excitedly mention your baby’s first poop, amongst other things. All of that nonsense about favorite books and bands–which made sense when Facebook was only for college kids–is gone. I was a little disappointed to see that Google+ still has relationship status settings. This isn’t college. There are dating sites for that.
  2. The circles. Being able to easily drag and drop friends into different circles to organize acquaintances is key. Google+ recognizes that for many of us we don’t just have friends, family, and work colleagues but rather our social and professional lives are continuously fluctuating Venn Diagrams. Some of the people I work with are also good friends but some of my good friends are still people I wouldn’t want to show photos of my REO Speedwagon tramp stamp to.
  3. It’s private. Google+ makes it very easy to immediately add people to different circles with different levels of access to information. You can also set your profile so that it won’t appear in a web search. Presumably on Alta Vista.
  4. It’s intuitive. The aforementioned drag and drop option is fantastic, much better than the non-stop check box clicking required for Facebook.
  5. It seamlessly integrates with my existing Google accounts. As someone who was already using Google Mail, Docs and Calendar for much of my web work–business or otherwise–having a social network that exists within the window I always have open is very useful. Also having any circle-wide messages sent as a direct email as opposed to a message through Facebook is excellent.

And here’s where I’m still undecided:

  1. The stream. This basically looks exactly like your Facebook newsfeed, although a bit more pleasingly minimalist. For now. It does allow you to easily change your streams between your circles, meaning you can easily find out what’s new with your close friends while avoiding pictures of your aunt’s vintage sex toy collection.
  2. +1. The Within Google+ a “+1” is basically the “Like” button on Facebook and on “other Google sites,” presumably sites like Picasa, YouTube and Blogger, it functions similarly to recommendation sites like Digg. I simple haven’t been using Google+ long enough to determine its utility.
  3. Sharing videos, photos and links. So far the functionality appears to be the same, or at least very similar, to Facebook. My hope is that media sharing within my stream will not become as cluttered as Facebook. Ideally, I’d like for this to be a place where I can share things that are too large or photo/video-oriented for Twitter without it becoming a non-stop stream of pictures of food. Again, the fact that Google+ allows one-click filtering of your stream is encouraging.
  4. Hangout. I have little use for this group webcam chat function. I do see it as being very useful for college study groups, high school friends staying in touch after graduation, and enthusiasts of impromptu group cyber sex.
  5. Monetization. Will Google+ become filled with ads? Presumably. Given that Google’s model is to create products that glue eyeballs to computer screens so as to advertise to said eyeballs, I have to figure that yes, it will be filled with ads. In this way, Google+ could end up being profoundly profitable. And I’m not opposed to ads, I just have some concerns as to how the advertisements will be presented and how intrusive they’ll be. So far, Google has shown itself to be masters of subtle, targeted advertising. We’ll see.

It would seem that with “Facebook Fatigue” setting in with long-time users (shit, I’ve had Facebook fatigue since before the media coined the term “Facebook Fatigue”), Google+ is in a unique position as a viable alternative. Of course it does benefit immensely from the 7 year Facebook test run. As an early Facebook user–someone who used it in college to network with classmates–I was always playing catch-up in terms of keeping my profile as private as I wanted it to be as Facebook grew and grew. With Google+ I can build my networks from the ground up and more effectively organize my contacts and filter my privacy.

Google+ should be open to the public, or at least anyone with a Google account, pretty soon. As the number of people in my network reaches the level it is on Facebook, that will be the true test of its efficacy. But if the early appeal is any indication, Facebook is looking at a strong and well-financed challenger. By this time next year, I just may have deleted my Facebook account. We’ll see.

About David D.

I'm a wine professional. Like a real one who makes most of his living in wine and have for most of my adult life. I also write, but you can see that.
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