Google is nothing if not ambitious, and while the Google Buzz adventure didn’t turn out that well for the search engine giant, it hasn’t kept them out of the social game either.
A year or so after the Buzz debacle, Google is back with another entrant into the somewhat-crowded social sphere called Google+. The product is in limited beta right now, but Google was good enough to grace everyone who didn’t get an invite with some details on Google+.
Google takes aim at competitors in the blog post announcing the new service, with a pointed (and actually pretty spot-on) critique of the failings of other social networks when explaining the “+Circles” aspect of Google+:
+Circles: share what matters, with the people who matter most
Not all relationships are created equal. So in life we share one thing with college buddies, another with parents, and almost nothing with our boss. The problem is that today’s online services turn friendship into fast food—wrapping everyone in “friend” paper—and sharing really suffers:
- It’s sloppy. We only want to connect with certain people at certain times, but online we hear from everyone all the time.
- It’s scary. Every online conversation (with over 100 “friends”) is a public performance, so we often share less because of stage fright.
- It’s insensitive. We all define “friend” and “family” differently—in our own way, on our own terms—but we lose this nuance online.
This is true- I personally dislike swearing on Facebook in front on my Great Uncle Huey or Aunt Alice, but I’m too lazy to utilize the list feature when I just feel like dropping a few f-bombs. Another aspect of the service is “Sparks+,” which has to do with the content you choose to share:
+Sparks: strike up a conversation, about pretty much anything
Healthy obsessions inspire sharing, and we’ve all got one (or two, or three…). Maybe it’s muscle cars, or comic books, or fashion, but the attraction is always the same: it comes up in conversation, we immediately jump in, and we share back and forth with other fans. Often for hours. The trick is getting things started, and getting over that initial hump. Fortunately, the web is the ultimate icebreaker.
Again, an excellent point regarding some weak spots of Facebook- sometimes you want to share a lot of similar or targeted content, but don’t necessarily want to spam your friends’ list- so far, the service looks like it could be useful and cover some uncovered bases.
Next up is “+Hangouts,” which concerns some of the more awkward and nearly confrontational aspects of social networking- namely, Facebook Chat:
+Hangouts: stop by and say hello, face-to-face-to-face
…Hanging out is deceptively simple though, and the nuance gets lost online… Just think: when you walk into the pub or step onto your front porch, you’re in fact signaling to everyone around, “Hey, I’ve got some time, so feel free to stop by.” Further, it’s this unspoken understanding that puts people at ease, and encourages conversation. But today’s online communication tools (like instant messaging and video-calling) don’t understand this subtlety:
- They’re annoying, for starters. You can ping everyone that’s “available,” but you’re bound to interrupt someone’s plans.
- They’re also really awkward. When someone doesn’t respond, you don’t know if they’re just not there, or just not interested.
Google+ will support multi-person Google Talk video chats, which will be a very nice feature when it’s integrated with your existing account. Last up is “+Mobile,” which will be how Google+ works with handheld devices and smartphones- an aspect that is difficult to describe without test-running the service. (It’s currently available for Android, and will hit the App Store “soon.”)
After the letdown of Google Buzz, it would certainly be easy to dismiss another social Google product out of hand. But it looks like Google+ has some unique and compelling features, and it could catch on where Facebook and Twitter have weak spots.
Will you be giving Google+ a test-run? Do you think the service has promise?