Thursday, July 7, 2011

Google+ after the Initial Infatuation

So how many of you have already tried out Google+, the bold contender against the stealth monopoly of Facebook?
Not many, I suspect. After the not-so-secret launch this week, Google+ is now -supposedly-open for the great public to join. Although many became enamored with the sleek and clean design, the truth is that it is slightly... lonely. Yet. The new social network is, as I described earlier, a sandbox without active playmates. Or am I just the only one being left out of all the fun games on the yard? Can´t be.

Over time Facebook has managed to acquire not just headcount, but games, company pages and easy sharing options with Youtube-clips and print media articles. Is it even possible to do the latter with Google+ yet? As it is, besides posting the idiosyncratic egonews flashes on the like of "I am watching tv", people seem to like to share video clips and news articles over the social network. Pastime for the electronic masses.
And in many online publications, the button for Facebook is _there_, just a click away. Youtube is owned by Google. I tried adding a music video the normal way to my Google+-profile. It placed itself to the +1 recommended -area, where the actual video can be accessed and watched through redirection to Youtube. Why would anyone want to leave the social network to see my "recommendation"?

As Janne Ruohisto recently wrote, it is possible that Google+ will, over time, become more like a closed social network for purely professional circles, in the likes of Yammer and Socialcast. So far, they have a lot to catch up to. The interest is there, the desire to swift over from Facebook is growing. The once celebrated indie-spirited Facebook has grown into a megalith, which guards itself fiercely (try switching your friends over to Google+? We will bury your profile!!). Except when it comes to the question of privacy. The repeated accidental bugs opening up the private information are all too familiar for us.

The new announcement over the union between Skype and Facebook is great, and was magnificently timed. But the real question is, whether they will be able to answer to the much bigger questions out there: the division between growing amount of "friends" and the ownership of added personal information. Google+  has the idea of division beautifully embedded into its design with "circles". When will the same idea pop up in Facebook? Quite soon, I suspect. But also, the larger public has begun questioning Facebook´s policy of owning everything one adds into the system.Is it fair? Is it right? And more importantly, above else, should we tolerate it?

Google is bringing official  brand pages, or company page possibity, into the Google+ in two weesk. In other words, they are suspecting the critical mass to grow into such portions within this time period, that it becomes worthwhile. At the moment getting in, or "getting an invite into circles" is troublesome and takes patience and many, many tries. This illustration describes it perfectly. Still, will you be joining "The Plus" when you can? As a hint, it is good to start with old Zuckie in your circles. After all, he is the most circled person inside Google+ as I´m writing this.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Race is on: Facebook versus Google+

Earlier this year we learned about the slight slump in popularity of the megaorganism known as Facebook. 
The number of Americans using the"blue timekiller" (as I lovingly call it) had dropped within the period of May from 155 million to 149 million. And this, they (as in the faceless, all-encompassing specialists)say, is a reason to worry. Is the pop rocket of a phenomenon showing signs of fatigue? Entering mature phase? (In all fairness it is gaining more adult users over 45 rapidly). Every trend has their beginning and an end. And now, with us all hooked into using social media services, it appears to be almost translucently cool to be able to resign from joining the game. At least, that´s what I blogged about at the end of last year, with hints of antisocial network and the luxury of saying no. Because let´s face it, being "off-grid" nowadays is getting rare indeed.

Then again, for a discernible part of us, Facebook, is just... plain fun. It is like the good old handy telephone book, with only a few tiny little upgrades. I like not always being forced to leave the house to talk with friends -especially when it is freezing cold outside and you feel overdrained. If only it did not play with our privacy so much. All the little bugs and crunches that made us cough, worry and shake our heads over the last year -could this be done differently? And hey, as we are talking about it, why is there no good competition? Sure, there was (and is) diaspora , where at least you can own the rights for your own pictures. But that did not really catch fire. Nowadays, it seems diaspora is mainly being visited by its developers. Correct me if I am wrong. So what is a girl (or a boy, or an animal) to do?

Enter Google+.  The latest development of the magnate company to get us all hooked inside the big megacorporation. After being released a few days ago for a selected group of people (ok, the ones who managed to buy, bag or steal an invite) it has generated buzz all over the web. Is this the Facebook-killer? Can the social network be redone, and better?
So far, my experience is quite narrow and clinical. With the lack of an as established and large friendsupply inside the "+", playing around just isin´t as fun, at least for now. One feels like the odd kid left on the sandbox with a plastic toy and anticipation hanging in the air. However, the positives of the new social media are visible, and Google has definitely noted the problems within Facebook, which we all are more than familiar with.

The pages are clean, sleek and free of clutter. Have you noticed how the sideline of ads in Facebook has grown deviously over time? How everything you search or write about is instantly met with similar themed ads? So far, there is no such thing in Google+, but then again, they might start playing the moneygame any day soon. Google+ consists of "hangouts", "circles" and "sparks". "Sparks" is where news become social and users can set the news to match their preferences. "Hangouts" is like the name: place to hang out with your friends from various circles -through video chat. And guess why Facebook announced they are bringing Skype-powered video chat this week? The competition can be fruitful for the large public.

"Circles" is the main pro side of Google+. Tired of setting up limitations for various friends over at Facebook? Yes, the whole thing can be done differently and smoothly. In Google+ the user can easily place people in separates "circles", and set limitations to these circles of friends. Now you can literally put those parental units in their own circle, and not worry about them seeing you every post from last Friday. Let´s not forget business contacts, either.  Oversharing just is not what most of have a need to do.

Another pro (or con, depending how you look at it) is that the whole thing is integrated with other Google services. Just log into your account (gmail, Youtube etc) and you are free to play with Google+, as well. This should be good news for Android- phone users as well, as the "app" for Google+ is already available, as write this. And I got it yesterday, thank you very much. Intrigued, but wondering how to switch all you hundreds of close friends from Facebook to Google+ smoothly? No worries, there is a solution! Courtesy of a friendly developer named Mohamed Mansour, one can easily switch the bundle of pals from the blue system into the G-system. It is called "Facebook Friend Exporter", it is free and available here . Be prepared to move everyone into their respective circles, though.

So how does one get inside the happening hotspot of the moment? My, by invitation only! As I am writing this, the invitation system does not work smoothly as of yet (that´s why the system is not officially open yet!). But every now and then a few invites slip by. So... does anyone want an invite? If so, write a nice comment, send your gmail-address ( and I will do my best.