Noah J Nelson on Tuesday, Jun. 28th
Google has been trying everything they can to crack the market dominance of Facebook in social networking, even if sometimes the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing: Google Wave, anyone?
Now Google steps up again with a closed door beta for Google+. It is a project — not a product, mind you — that aims to get some of the organic look and feel of social interactions right, in a way that Facebook never has understood.
Google+ is split into five services at the moment:
- Circles: groupings of friends. Like lists in Facebook, but instead of being an addendum to the service, the circles are at the heart of a social network. The thinking here being that with everyone you know in your gmail address book, the problem that needs to be solved is how to manage those contacts. Not everyone needs to know everything about you.
- Hangouts: group video chat with up to ten people at once. The featured video switches over to whoever is talking (or talking the loudest). It’s Chatroulette on steroids. This could be the killer app right here.
- Instant Upload: for Android phone users (with assurances that they want to bring it to other phone platforms). Photos upload right to the network as you take them.
- Sparks: this is a little hard to grasp. Sparks looks like a mash-up of RSS and Google Alerts. Give Sparks a search term and it will give you a running feed to surf.
- Huddle: group SMS based on Circles.
The one thing that Google clearly got right is Circles — although I hesitate to declare this a huge victory, because the system has yet to be field tested. It’s common sense that people organize their lives into social circles, and yet the list and social management features of Facebook don’t make that much of an impact within the largest social network. Is that just a byproduct of their status as an afterthought? Will a social network that is built from the ground up around the concept of discreet aspects of identity catch on? Or is it the fact that Facebook forces its users to have a singular public face the key that unlocks the power of the network effect?
These are the kinds of questions that can only be answered on a live network. While they may be founded on solid psychological principles, it may be that our network identities are very much our public personas. The Age of Overshare may not have a place for subtlety.