July 2, 2011

          Last year's Buzz breakdown wasn't enough to deter a flood of social networkers from wanting to try Google+, the search leader's latest foray into social networking. Chief among Google+'s attractions is Circles, a feature that lets users easily sort their friends into different groups. Meanwhile, Amazon fights the taxman, the USSC strikes down a video game law, and MySpace gets the boot from News Corp.
          Google made a very socially awkward move with its rollout of Google Buzz last year. It was Google's attempt to build a social network in part by stringing together various existing pieces of its infrastructure -- your contacts from over here, your Gmail account over there, Google Reader if you use it, so on.

           The problem with Buzz was that while it was shuffling around this complex network of acquaintances from different parts of your life, certain wires had a way of getting crossed. In the end, lots of people could potentially learn a few things about you that you may have rather kept private, or at least compartmentalized. Some of the specific privacy concerns users had could be fixed by wrenching around various account settings, but some of them were difficult to find and were set to open by default. The bottom line was that Buzz had boundary issues. It tried to get a little too friendly, and the backlash came on fast and furious.
               Technically, Buzz is still alive. Google.com/Buzz is still a working URL. But rather than attempt to salvage Buzz for its next big shot at social networking, Google came up with something else entirely and slapped a new name on it: Google+. It's being launched as a closed beta with a limited number of invites, and Google admits it's still working out some kinks, but it has given the public an idea of the direction Google's trying to take this time around.
Early reaction is that the interface looks a whole lot like Facebook's, just more Googley -- meaning it uses colors other than blue. Go with what works, I guess.
But one big difference Google is trying to press is the way it lets you categorize your friends. You don't have the same level of familiarity with every single person you know and connect with on social networks. You have your closest friends, family members, friends from way back, coworkers, neighbors, people whose names you mildly recognize, maybe even a few interesting-looking strangers, all connected to your profile. The way some networks call all of these people your "friends" sort of degrades the meaning of the word, and sometimes you may not want to share something for fear that not everyone will understand, or because you don't think everyone in your life needs to know.
So Google+ uses what it calls "Circles." You can cordon off various groups of people in your contacts list, then pick and choose exactly which Circles you share a given post with. Granted, Facebook has Groups also, but from what I've seen it looks like Google may have a leg up on the management interface.
Google+ will also try to breathe some life into video chat with Hangouts. Basically, Hangouts are like those AOL chatrooms from back in the day, but with video. So perhaps it's a little like Chatroullette, only you happen to know the people on the other end, so less chance of seeing random naked strangers.
              The launch of Google+ looks to be the direct attack on Facebook that we've been expecting for many months now. There have been proxy fights and passive-aggressive swipes here and there, but now Google's moving into social networking with a service that looks and acts a whole lot like Facebook's main platform. Facebook's the established king of social networking, and it's already on its way to a billion members, but if any company out there can at least make it break a sweat, Google would be it.
              But if any of that made you want to try out Google+ for yourself, forget it. You're going to have to put that on hold. Days after Google+ went live, the company suspended the distribution of new invitations, drastically slowing the number of new members who could sign up. It turned the act of finding a Google+ invite into some kind of scavenger hunt; some people even tried to sell them on eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY). Throttling back the invitation system means Google may miss a big opportunity by failing to cash in on all the initial curiosity there is out there for Google+, though the company might be right to hold back if capacity really is reaching its limits. The last thing it needs is for its shiny new social network to crash the day of the launch because of overcrowding.

0 Discussion :

Post a Comment