Has Google+ got privacy right, or are they walking in Circles?

An in-depth look at why Google+ is not as revolutionary as everyone thinks

Google+'s major features are: Huddles (group messaging), Sparks (interest-based news), Circles (friend groups), and Hangouts (group video chat).

This week, Google unveiled their big plan to topple Facebook from the Social Networking throne: Google+. With a less-than-stellar track record when it comes to steering social networking and online communication trends, (Google Buzz and Google Wave both failed to attract a critical mass), the world is interested to see whether the search giant has what it takes to pool all it has learned together into a recipe for success.

Google+ is currently in an invite-only beta stage. This means inclusion into the social network is “so-hot-right-now” with much excitement for early adopters over exclusivity. This is the same way that Facebook garnered it’s initial popularity. The cool kid is the one using the cool new social network, cool enough to invite his or her friends into something special.  It’s the social equivalent of sharing your M&Ms at recess. Besides the exclusivity though, the majority are already confident Google+ is “better than Facebook”.  However, having had a good play myself, I don’t think it is, and even if it is, I’m yet convinced it will matter. Facebook is not sitting idly by. Rest assured, they have been preparing for this day for years.

Google+ claims it’s main strength is on the fact that you can create “Circles” (their name for Friend Groups) and fill them with the people you know, grouped by friendship intimacy. Everything you then post in Google+, is only shared with the particular circles you choose. It’s simple, with no comprehensive control over automatic levels of privacy, like on Facebook. Google hope that people will share content more privately, with say, your six best friends, while 90% of your acquaintances, I guess, will never see anything personal that you don’t want shared. Sure, this theory is good on paper. A lot of people I’ve spoken to, say “Finally, not everything I post has to be shared with everyone“. This comment confuses me, because if controlled sharing really mattered to these people, they’d already be doing it on Facebook.

MG Siegler, Techcrunch editor, agrees:

Right now, almost every single post I see on Google+ is shared with the Public. Perhaps this is to be expected since the initial roll-out yesterday was very small. People don’t have a lot of friend in their Circles yet, so they’re posting everything to the public in the hopes of seeing some interaction, I imagine. I have been doing this too.

It’s no secret that Circles are a huge part of what the service is supposed to be about. Google has spent a lot of time and energy working on what they believe to be the correct system for grouping people together for the purpose of sharing content online. But again, right now, most people seem to be sharing to “Public” and not actually using their Circles.

That type of usage doesn’t seem tenable as Google+ gains users. Imagine the service having over a million users (which would be quite low for Google) — while you’ll still be in control of what posts you see, the comment sections will likely be too much. And people re-sharing other content will lead to too much noise.

More importantly, that would make Google+ just another slightly different version of Twitter, Facebook, etc. Then it becomes a question of “why share here instead of there?” — and that’s not something I’m sure Google can win coming to the game so late.

But as everyone has learned over the years, getting users to create and use groups is hard. Just ask Mark ZuckerbergNo one wants to do it.

I foresee people simply shoving everyone into the default “Friends” or “Following” Circles and going about their business.

Maybe “regular” people have been allergic to using groups in the past because they simply don’t want to use groups. Maybe it’s one of those things that’s a good idea on paper or in a brain-storming session, but doesn’t translate onto the web.

Maybe — gasp — the web isn’t meant to mimic the real world.

The old “I don’t want my boss or my mom seeing my drunken pictures” thing is the oft-cited rationale for why we need groups. But Twitter and now Facebook have slowly been changing that mentality in the public psyche. Increasingly, everything we do online is becoming public. You can say you hate it all you want, but it’s becoming more accepted each day. And this will only continue.

Read The Full Article: Walking Around In Circles: As Google Opens Up Will People Start Using It Correctly? | MG Siegler | Techcrunch

For me to consider dumping Facebook, or even just adopt Google+ as yet another social service I’m committed to updating regularly, I’d need to see some actual improvements in areas Facebook is lacking. This is possible. Google+ is just beginning. Their risk is that hype – and usage – dies off before they implement.

  • I’d love to see the ability to put uploaded videos into the same albums as my photos.
  • Everyone wants a fast, reliable, standard mobile experience that updates streams as notifications come in, unlike Facebook’s joke-of-a-mobile-app that has a clear lacking difference between clicking on new notifications and actually seeing the new information loaded. It seems that Facebook may be addressing this next week.
  • I’d like to see an integrated music player and music store, for sharing music with friends via mobile. Apparently, this may be coming when Google Music Beta is released worldwide.
  • Profile personalisation. Not to the extent of MySpace, but a lot of people hunger for a way to express ourselves visually. Even when Twitter was a micro company it allowed some sort of basic colourscheme tweaking and even animated avatars.

Google Sparks, kinda overhyped.

Google Sparks is probably the one feature of Google+  that I believe is flawed the most. This might surprise you, as it is Google’s attempt at delivering recommended content to you based on what you’re interested in, and sounds wonderful in theory. But Sparks fails to recognise that I want to pick and choose: I’m already loyally tied to feeding my interests from particular places, and particular people. I can understand the business model behind recommended content, and the more I think about why Google implemented it, and the paid/promoted content that’s inevitably going to flood my streams, the more I do not want to use it.

A much more usable option would be integrating Google+ with popular services (even those belonging to their rivals) such as Last.FM, YouTube channels, GrooveShark, Tumblr, WordPress, Instagram, Color, Quora, Deviant Art, Flickr, Rotten Tomatoes, and so on. Native integration with services like this would show people that Google really do understand people’s many different interests and social loyalties, a company dedicated to putting their users first, rather than trying to pigeon-hole the entire world into one predicted way of behaving, or trying to offer alternative services to destroy these.

Google+ is not going away. However, if it wants to become the king, rather than the Microsoft Bing of social networks, I’m not sure it’s a battle they can win.

Related Links:

UPDATE: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg joins Google+ creating a mass media storm. Of course, it makes perfectly normal sense to check out your competitor. Still, everyone found this a real novelty. I was actually wondering whether Google would deliberately block Mark's account/email from joining the invite-only beta, in an effort to stave off competitor spying. Petty, but that would be kinda hilarious.

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Categories: Business, Entertainment, Science, Technology

Author:Andrew Beato

CEO, Chief Editor and founder of Intentious. Passionate comment enthusiast, amateur philosopher, Quora contributor, audiobook and general knowledge addict.

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4 Comments on “Has Google+ got privacy right, or are they walking in Circles?”

  1. July 4, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

    Okay mr Beato 🙂 i’ll bite 😀

    My Thoughts:

    – I like the pure simplicity of the layout; Google seemingly has always had the mantra of letting the content do the talking – thats why they surpassed yahoo and msn search (not bing) in the earlier search engine wars – why? coz it was fast and you got to where you needed to go darn quickly.

    – Customisable, it kinda is – http://userstyles.org/styles/50051/google-facebookbut i don’t really see the need.

    – Sparks, I’ll probably use (just to compare) as I use something similar on my iPad, through Zite. Type in a category/topic itll trawl the web and it finds stuff for me. It finds stuff that i never would have found (i lie, probably would have after a bit of surfing) – but its a nifty feature if you plug in stuff you are interested in. Actually works quite nicely for “photography”

    – I do like that instant upload photo and video, granted havent taken anything noteworthy yet 😀

    – Circles, probably will come handy when more people hop on board, i can see it handy for sharing stuff between my camerageek mates for example

    – Sure its kitsch, but “inhouse” editing one step filters are fine with photos that already have uploaded (its no instagram hipstamatic – but still cool)

    -Hangouts again, fairly cool – kinda died on my 3g mobile broadband, fun to watch the reaction of someone watching a youtube clip with you haha. Loiter around long enough on hangouts someone will join you.

    -Huddles cool on mobile, actually decent group chat on mobile (FB chat fails)

    Its not killing off Facebook anytime soon, but it does have a few nice things that the powerful blue and white team hasn’t – I foresee Google+ to go to the techsavvy, and Facebook users already there (and their parents)

    I see a battle of features at nine paces, the winner – the end user 😀

    • July 4, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

      Yeah I agree it’s not going away, and it’s not a Facebook killer. Sparks is nice, but it needs to be able to pull in only specific websites people are interested in if it’s going to work properly. The design & UI is clean, simple. The mobile app is simple, so it’s easy to work well so far. FB will be increasingly everywhere: they’re enabling websites & apps to use their social platform via HTML5 on all mobiles pretty soon. I’m happy for Google+ to sit as another sharing box on websites beside the big T and the big F, but whether I’ll use it regularly when every G+ user is still is committed to Facebooking too, remains to be seen.


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