“Not to say that I’d sacrifice my firstborn for a Google+ invite, but… hit me up on gmail if you’ve got an invite burning a hole in your inbox.” Yes, admittedly, that was a post of mine on Facebook back on June 29th.
The “firstborn” bit was, obviously, mentioned in jest, but I can guarantee that given the buzz surrounding the launch of a new social network, touted as a Facebook killer, by no less a company than Google—Facebook’s main rival in the we-gather-highly-personal-data-and-sell-ads-against-it space—someone else made the “firstborn” comment, and they were serious about it.
After a week of “Hanging out”, categorizing people into circles, tweaking my privacy settings obsessively, and struggling to find an expeditious way to import my Facebook contacts, I’ve come to some conclusions, which I’ve neatly categorized under headings.
A Clean Start
Google+ gives adopters the opportunity for a “clean start” on a new social network. Whereas many of my Facebook “friends” have as many as 2000 or more (the result of overzealous “friending” sprees in high school), I have “only” 850-some, and I still feel overwhelmed by this horde.
Coming over to Google+ was something of a breath of fresh air, because in those first few days, only my most tech-savvy (i.e., awesome) friends were on G+. Not to get mushy, but there was something vaguely magical about exploring the functionality of a new, squeaky clean web environment.
On The Power of Circles
Google+ implemented Facebook’s Lists function better than Facebook did. Facebook Lists allow users to parse which of their friends will be able to see posts of different types. Cool, right? Sure, but Facebook didn’t do a good job of announcing Lists, so it remains the social network’s most powerful and underutilized tools.
Google+, on the other hand, uses Circles to accomplish the same thing as Lists, and it does it better. On Facebook, when you confirm a friend request, you are given the opportunity to add the new friend to a list. When you want to add someone on Google+, you are forced to make a decision: which circle or circles (Google+ lets you cross-list friends) do I put this person in? So, from the get-go, G+ users have their connections neatly organized in manageable groups.
On The Death of Friending
Google+ takes a hint from Twitter’s success. On Twitter, there is no analog to the Friend Request, unless a user makes their feed private. This passive model of “following” has evolved into a new behavior; instead of confirming a friend request, Twitter and Google+ users just reciprocate the follow. They follow back.
Google+ set a powerful precedent: a post-Facebook social network deliberately chose to drop the Friend Request. New social networks, beyond Facebook and Google+, will likely drop the friend request model as well. What effect this will have on our conception of what it means to be friends is unclear, but the follow model more accurately reflects how friendships are formed. That I have to confirm that someone is a friend, on Facebook, is quickly losing its quaintness and is becoming more of a chore than anything else.
Overall, Google+ is an interesting experience. It takes all the nice parts of Facebook, like the Lists, the news feed, profiles, etc., and places them front and center. It uses Twitter’s model of following, which just feels more intuitive, frankly. Its UI is nice and clean and—gasp!—kind of different from everything else out there. There’s a lot of whitespace.
Whether Google+ will steal a sufficiently large chunk of Facebook’s users to be called “successful” is still unknown. I’ve been using Facebook for, what, about 6 years now? It’s kind of gross to think about how much of my life transpired on Facebook, how much of my personal information is stored there. I don’t know if I’m up to the task of switching to G+ permanently, and the challenge of splitting my time between the two is considerable. But if the cool kids are on G+, I s’pose I will be too.
Google Plus: Is This The Social Tool Schools Have Been Waiting For? on Read Write Web
7 Reasons Why Google+ Will Succeed (And one reason why it will very likely fail) on Soshable
Why Google+ Could Find A Home In The Workplace on GigaOm
9 Reasons To Switch From Facebook to Google+ on PC World