The world's biggest search engine attempts to be social...
It's the greatest things since sliced beets, a Facebook killah, or um, a big new sandbox whose potential remains untapped. It's certainly growing fast. In a hyperbolic headline, Business Insider breathlessly shouted, "Google Plus Is DESTROYING Facebook's Dreams, And Facebook Isn't Playing Fair." Because of Google+'s speedy acquisition of nearly 20 million users, Facebook apparently has been "alienating users, rather than being a gentleman." Surely unheard of in business interactions! The ungentlemanly actions taken include not allowing G+ to automate exporting all your friends lists from Facebook. Writer David Seaman was so taken with Google+ that he has burned his bridges:
Add me on Google+. I'm deleting my Facebook account next week. If you need an invite, leave your email address in the comments section.
There have been a number of those kind of gleeful comments, but the majority of people have branched out rather than abdicated so far, even if it means rebuilding your network. The system is not as user-friendly or intuitive as Facebook, which has led sites like quick-to-capitalise-on-any-new-tech-trend Mashable to offer guides to getting the most out of the new networking site. They also covered Google's abrupt jump to enforce the real name requirement, suspending "fake name" accounts with abandon, a move that was widely decried by writers with pen names, LGBT folks, pagans and anyone else who might have a reason to shield themselves from exposing their real names. Google backed down from its initial hard-line stance, admitting they were "exploring better ways to support nicknames, maiden names and pseudonyms." Some users suspended without warning have simply chosen to leave the service all together. Their initial approach to commercial pages has also generated controversy.
However, a lot of people have dipped their virtual toes in; in fact, Google+ apparently has had a significant growth in female users. The clean layout reminds many of what Facebook once looked like before it started filling up your screen with ads and clunky menus of things you didn't want to see in the first place. Many are charmed by the notion of circles and the fact that like Twitter, you can follow people who don't necessarily want to friend you.
Nonetheless, a lot of people aren't entirely sure if it's actually working. My friend @ninthart, a tech-savvy graphics designer, tweeted recently:
I spend all my time in Google+ trying to figure out who all these people following me are, and then muting posts. Sigh.
There's a lot of confusion about how to configure your experiences for optimum use even among the knowledgeable. Even early and enthusiastic adopters like comedy-geek-activist Graham Linehan (@Glinner) find themselves scratching their heads about how to manage the increasingly bounteous information. Judging by my own circles, the users still skew heavily toward geeks (in the nicest possible way) and promotion-savvy writers. I find I'm sharing some of the same information that I am on Twitter and Facebook, but I haven't moved any activities exclusively to Google+ and that seems significant. In the first couple of weeks, people were drawn in by the exclusivity, struggling to get an invite from someone, anyone, but now things are a bit quieter as people try to figure it out.
And that seems to be the sticking point: you do have to sort things out. That's a plus for geeks who like to problem-solve. It's a big minus for people who just want shiny and easy-to-use. Google+ may become that after a time, but it's not there yet. It's not a complete failure like Buzz, but it's not yet the Facebook or Twitter-killer either.
K. A. Laity writes so much that she had to create some pseudonyms to keep her colleagues from thoughts of torture. A tenured medievalist at a small liberal arts college, she mostly tries to find ways to avoid meetings in order to write more. Find her in Galway as a Fulbright Scholar this coming academic year or on Facebook or follow her on Twitter where she's been known to kill a man just to watch him live tweet about it.