The First Rule of Google+ Club… July 20, 2011Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Facebook.
Tags: Google, Google Plus, Orkut, Social Networking, Twitter
Is apparently to talk constantly about Google+ Club.
Which strikes me as odd because most of what I have seen so far has not been all that exciting.
Yes, I am there on Google+.
You can find Wilhelm Arcturus in the Google+ milieu.
[Whoops, no you cannot, not any more. Pseudonyms are not allowed and somebody apparently complained about mine and I was asked to leave.]
There were several dreadful minutes when I had nearly a dozen invites to join Google+, but they were limiting the number of users allowed in this early release period. And then somebody at Google changed their mind and the population of Google+ has since swollen to the point of rivaling the population of New York and closing in on that of Texas.
But once there, it didn’t really change my world.
Google+, in my view, is trying to meld the ideas of Facebook and Twitter into a single package. Not a bad idea. It has merit.
As with Facebook have your wall, which I guess is your stream in Google+ parlance. And stream is a good term, since already I’ve run into people who post like they are letting go after a few beers.
Anyway, you’re not limited to streaming out a mere 140 characters, you can embed pictures or video, and you can even decide which of your groups you can stream all over. Plus, if your friends respond, they can respond directly to your post.
Meanwhile, Google+ has aspects of Twitter in its structure. For a start, you have no friends.
For some of you, this won’t be news.
On Facebook, friends are a one-to-one, mutually consensual relationship. You gotta ask and somebody has to accept before you are connected.
In Google+, as with Twitter, you can follow people. You pick the people who interest you, drop them in a group, called circles, and can follow what they post. It has the one-to-many aspect of Twitter, along with the lists functionality, without the restrictions on character count or the difficulty of following a conversation between other people. Circles can be like having many individual feeds.
So in Google+ you have no friends but merely run in circles.
For example, I clicked on Guy Kawasaki and put him in my acquaintances circle, which is one of the pre-set circles. I’ve met him a few times. He won’t remember me, but we have friends in common that I know he would remember (Yuji!), so if I was stuck in an elevator with him, I could establish a common link with him beyond, “Hey, you signed my copy of The Macintosh Way at the Palo Alto ComputerWare back in 1991.”
Then a day later I removed him from that circle because I forgot that he posts pretty much constantly and that was why I had to stop following him on Twitter as well. I am just not that interested in what he has to say and his output makes Scoble seem like a piker some days. (If I am going to drop names, I should also point out I went to junior high school with Bob Scoble where we shared a 7th grade algebra class taught by Mr. Sousa who, in hindsight, could have been the inspiration for Severus Snape… only louder… and occasionally in German. I have forgotten most of 7th grade at this point, but not that class.)
Just like on Twitter, I am sure that Guy got a notification that I was following him, but when I stopped he heard nothing.
So on Google+, as with Twitter, there will be a lot of asymmetrical relationships.
I created my own circle called MMO Blognati, where I stuck people like Tobold and Darren, which ended up being mostly symmetrical, Facebook like relationships of mutual subscription. I also created one called MMO Devs which, aside from Brian Green, is pretty much me subscribing to their feeds.
I also have a circle called “No F’ing Idea” for people who follow me but whom I cannot place in any context, yet I feel I must know from somewhere.
Fortunately, other people cannot see your circles, only that you have placed them in one. So they may think you’ve put them in the Friends circle (okay, I guess you can have friends of a sort) but really you’ve put them in the raging ass-hat circle.
Which is all a reasonable system. I like the mix. But once you get past that there really isn’t much else to talk about. Which is where a bit of the confusion comes in for me.
There is a whole bunch of people who are, “OMG! This is the best thing EVAR! Facebook is dead! How can you still be using Facebook? Facebook is now MySpace!”
And I have to wonder what some of these people are smoking.
Because, to start off, I already have Facebook and Twitter and a whole bunch of connections therein, not all of which have moved off. Some of the people who are saying this are MMO players and have claimed to understand the stickiness of social connections in such games. This is part of the reasons that MMOs keep players for so long.
So Facebook isn’t dead. It is still the central online social loci for many millions of people and will remain so until there is a “killer app” for Google+ that nobody can live without.
Which leads me to the second point of confusion, that there is no real “killer app” for Google+ yet.
Not that I can see.
There isn’t anything that you can say about Google+ that you cannot get elsewhere. The only real compelling reason to go to Google+ that I can see is that it is not Facebook. So now all of us elitist geek swine can feel superior because Facebook is something that non-techies use. All the cool kids use Google+, which is an actual quote, even if I assume it was meant with some sense of irony.
And this lack of killer app makes me boggle.
Because here is Google, which owns my email (gmail), my RSS feed reader (Google Reader), the RSS feed from my blogs (Feed Burner), my search history (just plain old Google), searching in general (i.e. for more than just people), my instant messaging (GoogleTalk… okay, I don’t use that… but I could!), my news sources (plug-ins in iGoogle), and a pile of other stuff like Google Maps, YouTube, Google Books, Google Translate, and so on, none of which appears to be connected in any unique way to Google+.
If that doesn’t say something about Google, I don’t know what does.
So while Facebook has a pile of third party apps that will integrate directly and effectively with all sorts of data sources, like my blog for example, Google+ seems pretty lacking.
And you cannot even play the “but it’s brand new!” card, because that won’t wash.
Google has had a social networking site since 2004. It is called Orkut. I had a friend who worked on it at one point and used to check in on it now and again, until the official language became Portuguese and people began complaining about people using English on “their” service.
But surely in the last 6+ years, they learned something from Orkut? They built integration points for that, they must have brought them forward, right?
So the real message about Google I take from this is one that I have already heard before many time here in the valley, often from people in a position to know, which is that Google never recycles anything and that each little project group works in its own little bubble and feels it has to create the world from scratch every time.
Which is ironic considering that they have been known to push a green message now and again. I suppose code seems like an unlimited resource when you are young.
Of course, there is one group within Google that I am sure will integrate with Google+ soon. That will be the ad group. They will snicker “Don’t Be Evil” and inject ads into the whole thing. That will be the initial revenue model.
But as of today, Google+ is clean, with a pristine white background, no ads, a couple of interesting ideas, and a bunch of self-satisfied geeks using it.
Where do you think it is heading?
Will any eventual “killer app” also end up being evil?
I am sure if I am missing something about the service, somebody will let me know.
A while after I posted this, Cringely posted something about the projected decline and fall of Facebook. Google+ doesn’t figure into that in his picture.
Facebook is a huge success. You can’t argue with 750 million users and growing. And I don’t see Google+ making a big dent in that.
Rather, the next big thing will cause the social media category to fade.