Reviewers are deeming Google+ (aka Google Plus) Facebook’s newest challenger in the social networking business.
Google+, or The Google+ Project, is Google’s new social networking platform. With their Circles feature they are trying to solve one of the main issues social networking platforms have: user’s “friends” are all linked into the same network.
You know, we’ve all faced it at one time: that situation when you receive a friend request from a current student but adding them means they will be able to see your brother’s friend’s posts, who sometimes shares slightly inappropriate jokes or photos on your wall.
Facebook has tried to solve this “meshing” issue with an option to “group” friends but it still doesn’t completely solve the fact that we are complex beings with multiple communities of friends that may not always be compatible.
[For more information on this see my previous post The Real Life Social Network featuring a Slideshare presentation by Paul Adams discussing identity and human social interaction are affecting the future of web & online social networking design.]
Google’s approach, according to Bradley Horowitz, who oversees Google’s communications products and social applications, is:
“[With Google+] we’ve created a system that’s based on the concept of circles, so that I can take my college friends and drag them into a circle called ‘college buddies,’ and I can take my work colleagues and drag them into a circle that’s called ‘work friends.’ And I can share selectively the parts of myself with those circles that I choose to.”
What this means, beyond avoiding mishaps due to online exposure between current students and your brother’s inappropriate friends, is that you can more effectively target different groups of students and contacts in your social networking profile such as those currently on campus, new incoming students, individual groups studying for a semester abroad at various locations, your education field professional contacts, etc.
It remains to be seen how effective Google’s new platform is at managing these multiple communities in the online environment. With the launch of Google+ some reviewers have noted the previous failed attempts Google has had at social networking, projects such as Buzz and Wave, but the Google+ Project seems to have potential.
Several other Google+ features besides Circles is Hangouts, which is an online space where up to 10 users can video chat with each other, and Sparks, a stream of online content including videos, photos and article links based on topics of interest to the user.
One other notable point on this project is that Google is approaching privacy, and how information is shared, quite differently from the notorious social network leader, Facebook (who is well known for their lack of respect for users’ privacy).
Google is following its typical roll-out of a new product: beta testing by users invited to join by a friend who has invitations to share. This allows Google to watch how a small group of early adopters use and engage with the product, affording the developers insight into what changes & improvements need to be made before opening the product to the public.
We’ll see if this product finally puts Google on the social networking map and helps us more effectively manage the ever-increasing complex web of our online existence. I, for one, have hope and look forward to seeing them give Facebook a good competitor in the social networking game.
You can view the Google+ demo here.