Some Reasons to Be Optimistic About Google Plus

Here’s a dirty little secret: I thought Google Wave was going to be awesome. I admit this so that you can immediately discount everything I’m about to write if you like, but wait, hear me out!

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past 48 hours or so then you’ve heard about Google’s new “Facebook killer.” Because despite Google’s serious attempts to not brand themselves that way (“It’s a project, not a product! We’re not competing with Facebook!”), media article after media article has been using a term that makes me think we’re not talking about social networking at all but instead the upcoming season of Dexter. So yes, everyone knows that it’s meant to compete with Facebook. Because Google would be stupid not to want to compete with Facebook, which is perhaps the number one source of valuable user data they’re not getting.

Of course, we have reason to be wary. Because Google Wave was impenetrable and Google Buzz made Facebook’s privacy woes look amateur. And there’s a lot working against them in terms of adoption, because so many people are so firmly ensconced in Facebook that they’d have to be dragged out kicking and screaming. Years ago I remember thinking that Facebook would have difficulty sucking the user base out of Friendster, but that was nowhere near the scale we’re talking about now – Facebook is pretty much taking over the world. And of course the thing about an online social network is, it only works if your “real” social network is there. Plus if everyone moves over from Facebook to Google Plus, just think about all those dead crops!

Still, I am optimistic that this thing could actually work. Here’s why:

  • The reason I don’t use Facebook much is because every time I post something I have to think “Do I want my father to read this? My academic adviser? My boss? My friends? That guy I dated for two weeks in high school?” Yes, Facebook does provide ways to make posts selectively private, but it seems like this is exactly the problem that Circles is trying to solve.
  • As xkcd points out, on one hand you’ll never be able to convince your parents to switch. On the other hand, you’ll never be able to convince your parents to switch!
  • The adoption problems re: tearing people away from Facebook (and their crops!) may be mitigated in part by the ease of adding people via gmail. What’s one more Google product in our lives? Plus Google’s limited roll-out strategy seems to have been successful in the past at creating demand and buzz. I wonder if they considered buying MySpace at a low, low, discounted price to lure over the two people and some bands who are left there.
  • Given the huge shift in Facebook towards games like Farmville, as well as other apps, it’s possible that Google Plus can be more of a pure social network without all the noise. I see those two functions as very different things, and for those who like to play social games, there may be room for more than one site in their lives.
  • After the debacle with Buzz, Google is heavily motivated to take privacy very seriously. I am optimistic on this count, though on the other hand, I’ve heard some grumbling (unverified) that Plus makes gender a mandatory public field, and this is the kind of thing that causes problems. So we’ll see.
  • Hangouts is actually something new – more similar to Skype than Facebook. The spontaneous gathering idea is interesting, but what really appeals to me is the potential to support a social practice I already have – which is watching Netflix remotely with people. For friends who live far away, we queue up a movie (usually a bad one) and then chat in IM as we watch. When I saw someone tweeting yesterday about “hanging out” in Plus watching YouTube videos with friends, I got a glimmer of hope for this.

So will Google Plus (and by the way, “Google+” is such an awful name for the purposes of writing, I can’t even express) be the “Facebook Killer”? Doubtful. But there might still be something there, and maybe I’m just too sunshine-and-unicorns, but I’m excited to find out.

Are you optimistic about Google+? And if it came down to it, what would it take to tear you away from Facebook?

Comic credit:  http://xkcd.com/ / CC BY-NC 2.5

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49 Responses to Some Reasons to Be Optimistic About Google Plus

  1. Yes I'm optimistic about Google+ and I agree on that "awful name" part :P, what it would take to tear me away from Facebook? well as long as it makes my privacy totally customisable. like letting me customize the privacy of every single thing I put on Google+.

  2. I'm with everyone else it seems, Facebook has been dead to me for a while, get me my invite and I'll be all over Google Plus.

    P.S. I thought (and still do think) Google Wave was a great idea, you just need the right use for it – social interaction wasn't that use.

    As an aside, how about having a Geeks are Sexy circle to get us over the initial period of being one of the only people in our circle to have access too it.

  3. What I don't understand is why people have their employers and college advisors and other non-family members as FB friends in the first place! Real world friends are fine.  Just be cautious about making your business the world's business and keep your profile PRIVATE, you should be just fine.  I don't play games on FB, I ignore the ads on the right side, don't add total strangers, and remember the old saying "Fools names like their faces, always seen in public places."  

  4. What I don't understand is why people have their employers and college advisors and other non-family members as FB friends in the first place! Real world friends are fine.  Just be cautious about making your business the world's business and keep your profile PRIVATE, you should be just fine.  I don't play games on FB, I ignore the ads on the right side, don't add total strangers, and remember the old saying "Fools names like their faces, always seen in public places."  

  5. What I don’t understand is why people have their employers and college advisors and other non-family members as FB friends in the first place! Real world friends are fine.  Just be cautious about making your business the world’s business and keep your profile PRIVATE, you should be just fine.  I don’t play games on FB, I ignore the ads on the right side, don’t add total strangers, and remember the old saying “Fools names like their faces, always seen in public places.”  

  6. Added thoughts.  Facebook has been wonderful in a special way.  I have been able to make contact with many cousins I never knew existed.  Many of these cousins have also "met" each other via Facebook. I met many of their fathers and grandfathers  some twenty years ago at a family reunion, and I've kept in touch with several of these far-flung kin, and we hope to meet in the real world in the near future.  I'll try out the new Google social network, but I'll stick with Facebook for the foreseable future.

  7. Added thoughts.  Facebook has been wonderful in a special way.  I have been able to make contact with many cousins I never knew existed.  Many of these cousins have also "met" each other via Facebook. I met many of their fathers and grandfathers  some twenty years ago at a family reunion, and I've kept in touch with several of these far-flung kin, and we hope to meet in the real world in the near future.  I'll try out the new Google social network, but I'll stick with Facebook for the foreseable future.

  8. Added thoughts.  Facebook has been wonderful in a special way.  I have been able to make contact with many cousins I never knew existed.  Many of these cousins have also “met” each other via Facebook. I met many of their fathers and grandfathers  some twenty years ago at a family reunion, and I’ve kept in touch with several of these far-flung kin, and we hope to meet in the real world in the near future.  I’ll try out the new Google social network, but I’ll stick with Facebook for the foreseable future.

  9. I'm a cautious optimist here. A simple bare bones interface sounds like an excellent idea and the aforementioned privacy idea mentioned by Omar is a great idea. Ideally, this would be great as long as, unlike Facebook, Google doesn't prompt me for my phone number (or any other private information) in the name of security. Seriously, am I the only one who is getting tired of being relentlessly asked for that information just to upgrade the security on Facebook just because, I refuse to give them any more information than they already have?

    I see potential in Google+ and a few concerns on making sure that this doesn't become the next Facebook in terms of privacy and App spam. Which brings me to another personal bane, having a flood on my news feed for Farmville, Frontierville or anything with 'ville after it. I enjoyed my share of games on MySpace, but my shit got polluted with that spam hyper-fast, so I decided to stop (didn't stop others from flooding me, but it stopped me from doing the same to others). If Google+ does not host any of this, they may just see me migrate there (finally….a place where no one throws a sheep at me every 30 minutes!).

    I could love this idea as long as they establish a set of checks and balances to avoid perverting it into a system that carries privacy/ad problems and will keep the spam (seriously, I can't emphasize this problem enough) out.

  10. I'm a cautious optimist here. A simple bare bones interface sounds like an excellent idea and the aforementioned privacy idea mentioned by Omar is a great idea. Ideally, this would be great as long as, unlike Facebook, Google doesn't prompt me for my phone number (or any other private information) in the name of security. Seriously, am I the only one who is getting tired of being relentlessly asked for that information just to upgrade the security on Facebook just because, I refuse to give them any more information than they already have?

    I see potential in Google+ and a few concerns on making sure that this doesn't become the next Facebook in terms of privacy and App spam. Which brings me to another personal bane, having a flood on my news feed for Farmville, Frontierville or anything with 'ville after it. I enjoyed my share of games on MySpace, but my shit got polluted with that spam hyper-fast, so I decided to stop (didn't stop others from flooding me, but it stopped me from doing the same to others). If Google+ does not host any of this, they may just see me migrate there (finally….a place where no one throws a sheep at me every 30 minutes!).

    I could love this idea as long as they establish a set of checks and balances to avoid perverting it into a system that carries privacy/ad problems and will keep the spam (seriously, I can't emphasize this problem enough) out.

  11. I'm a cautious optimist here. A simple bare bones interface sounds like an excellent idea and the aforementioned privacy idea mentioned by Omar is a great idea. Ideally, this would be great as long as, unlike Facebook, Google doesn't prompt me for my phone number (or any other private information) in the name of security. Seriously, am I the only one who is getting tired of being relentlessly asked for that information just to upgrade the security on Facebook just because, I refuse to give them any more information than they already have?

    I see potential in Google+ and a few concerns on making sure that this doesn't become the next Facebook in terms of privacy and App spam. Which brings me to another personal bane, having a flood on my news feed for Farmville, Frontierville or anything with 'ville after it. I enjoyed my share of games on MySpace, but my shit got polluted with that spam hyper-fast, so I decided to stop (didn't stop others from flooding me, but it stopped me from doing the same to others). If Google+ does not host any of this, they may just see me migrate there (finally….a place where no one throws a sheep at me every 30 minutes!).

    I could love this idea as long as they establish a set of checks and balances to avoid perverting it into a system that carries privacy/ad problems and will keep the spam (seriously, I can't emphasize this problem enough) out.

  12. Facebook does have a way to group your friends, and then you can post directly to that friend group or specifically block a friend group from viewing any one of your comments individually. It's there, people just never look… 

    Anyway, is this good? Sure. Is any of it innovative? Not really. Am I interested? Yes. Mostly for the free multi-user video chat.

    • Hmmm.. I know that there is that feature, like all geeks, who uses facebook, but use it very rarely and mobile version doesn't have that feature. Mobile apps neither has that feature.

      Google+ will let use it intuitively, so yes, that's innovative compared to facebook.

  13. Facebook does have a way to group your friends, and then you can post directly to that friend group or specifically block a friend group from viewing any one of your comments individually. It’s there, people just never look… 

    Anyway, is this good? Sure. Is any of it innovative? Not really. Am I interested? Yes. Mostly for the free multi-user video chat.

  14. What would take for me to leave Facebook as my primary social networking site is for my closest friends, primary friends I mostly just chat with on FB, and my boyfriend to switch. I go where my friends are. (Except I convinced my best friends to switch from Myspace to FB, so we'll see.) It's very unlikely that I'll abandon Fb altogether, all the same…

    Some features I would like to see that either Facebook has never had, or changed out, are keeping private messages and IM's SEPARATE, the ability to group chat, someone mentioned live chat, actually being able to chat WITHOUT the chat acting up, being able to appear offline or online to some and not others, and some other features I can't recall at the moment… lol :p

  15. "Given the huge shift in Facebook towards games like Farmville, as well as other apps, it’s possible that Google Plus can be more of a pure social network without all the noise. I see those two functions as very different things, and for those who like to play social games, there may be room for more than one site in their lives."

    I don't agree with you about that. That games was one of the Facebook popularity reasons. Well for kids and teens mostly, but still – kids won't leave place like facebook with full of joy from stupid games, questions and tests for boring place like linkedin. Btw I don't play these games anymore but not because of some alternative. I don't know any website where I can experience playing games like on facebook. If there are some good sites (Kongregate, newgrounds, etc), my friends don't know them. And don't want to know, because they need to register one more time and in the end they will not get all the features from facebook games.
    P.S. Google +1 button is very good strategy for marketing Google+ :) 

  16. Why does a new service make us have the leave the old? I looked forward the Wave because I thought it might be the kingmaggregator, until it came out and was no such use. I’m not going to “leave” FB because everyone I interact with online is there in one convenient spot. If Google Plus is just a separate social group that requires my friends to migrate over as well, not gonna happen.

    Why can’t Google just include FB and Twitter integration vis API? Then I would use the (presumably) superior interface of Google Plus, see only Google Ads (that’s the whole point, right?), but still have interactivity with everyone to whom I’m currently connected. They wouldn’t have to change anything, but I could still enjoy a rich existing social base with the new service.

    I moved to FB because that’s where my friends gathered. Unless they all move to Plus, I’m pretty much stuck with FB regardless of the pros or cons.

    • I agree that this entrenchment issue is the toughest barrier Google+ has to clear.  That said, though, they’ve set up a pretty steep slippery slope to unconscious adoption by making such tight integration with Gmail.  Not to mention how slick Circles are for privacy management and Hangout for group video conferencing and sharing.  They’ve just made it too easy to stay inside the Google-verse.

      I don’t necessarily plan on leaving FB, but I do have Gmail open all the time.  If I can see my notifications and post comments from right inside that interface?  I might just become too lazy to go check FB.

      Also, I’m interested to see what other integration is coming down the line.  I rely on Google Calendar (synched with my work Outlook), and Google Docs on a daily basis.  If they take what they learned from Wave, and implement enterprise-style team features to Google+… could be pretty sweet.

  17. I think Google plus and facebook have a different target market. Facebook wouldn't affected. Hangouts is a perfect feature from Google plus :D thanks

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