Greta Garbo would have hated Google+. To be honest, she probably would have hated Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and MySpace as well. However, after spending just a short while on Google+, I can see that it would really have given her hives.
For those of you who actually have been on vacation these last few days or away from a computer enjoying the summer weather, Google+ may not ring a bell. So here’s a quick overview of what it is and how it works:
First via Google’s vaseline-coated soft-focus lens:
Now, here’s a pithier review from CNETTV:
With Google+, you have the ease of Facebook- or Twitter-style sharing with the power of Google behind it. Google+ gives you lots of opportunities to share content and then have an extended conversation regarding that content. You can choose to share certain content with some folks but not others via the “Circles” organization scheme and Google+ Settings. Once you’ve found good content, you can endorse or recommend it using the +1 Button. Further, because there don’t appear to be size restrictions, you won’t have to develop that special Twitter skill of compressing your pearls of wisdom into bursts of 140 characters or less. Best of all, you have the power of Google search to find interesting people (via their Google Profiles) and interesting content. If that isn’t enough, Google gives you the ability to video chat with a number of friends (called “Hangouts“) and have a private conversation with a select group of friends (called “Huddle“). If there are particular topics that interest you, try the Google+ “Sparks” function to find other aficionados. Add to all of this the ability to instantly upload photos and videos, and you may begin to find fewer reasons to go to other social media platforms.
Now, back to Greta Garbo. The film buffs among my readers will remember that she was notoriously reclusive. She just wanted to be “let alone.” To someone of her disposition, Google+ would be tremendously troubling. By providing so many useful functions in a single place, it offers a seemingly efficient means to contribute and consume content about family, friends, acquaintances and…celebrities. All in one place. It’s powerful and it’s something with which Ms. Garbo never had to contend.
In fairness, Google has done a pretty good job of designing the user interface. As a result, it invites you in and tempts you to do almost too many things in one place. In theory, a dedicated Google+ user would no longer need Twitter, FB, Flickr or Skype, to name a few. That user could simply live in Google+. And, once Google+ moves out of Beta testing and into the general population, you may discover that enough of your family, friends and acquaintances are on Google+ that you don’t need to go elsewhere to interact with them.
If Google+ provides a reasonable substitute for other social media channels, it could easily become my primary dashboard for online communications. One concern I have is that I liked the simplicity of having specific channels for particular types of communications (e.g., an RSS reader for sharing feeds, Twitter for general news, FB for personal updates, blogs for think pieces, FriendFeed for extended conversations with friendly geeks, etc.). Once everything is consolidated on a single platform, I fear that my social interactions (and this tool) may require a great deal more management on my part.
On top of all of this, it is as if Google is seducing users into bringing all of their social interactions onto a Google platform. It makes me feel a bit like Little Red Riding Hood facing the Big Bad Wolf. How on earth do we avoid getting eaten? Now Google knows with even greater clarity what we know, who we know and how we behave. It’s an advertiser’s dream. To be fair, Google has tried to address some of these concerns via its terms of service. We’re told that Google has been paying attention to the infamous missteps of the FB team when it comes to privacy. Nonetheless, it’s hard to ignore the sheer power and scope of coverage of Google. In light of that, giving them even more of my life seems to be a step that should not be taken lightly.
Don’t get me wrong. Google+ is definitely the sandbox to play right now — especially if you are even slightly geeky. It’s the new toy in town and it’s fun. That said, some folks liked Google Wave and others were enthusiastic about Google Buzz. Check in with me later to see if I’ve succumbed or whether my inner Greta Garbo leads me to walk away.