Old and Busted: Facebook; New Hotness: Google+
In a strange, meta social-media twist, I first learned of Google+ via Twitter. And I was all like, “O RLY,” but then knew I had to give it a try, whatever it was, due to being a total whore for Google. I kept refreshing the signup page until it let me join (unfortunately, the invitation feature keeps getting turned on and off). It’s FREE to join and use, but use is currently still restricted to obsessive beta-testing nerds like myself. Now that I and increasing numbers of friends are Google+ members, it’s becoming clearer to me that this might actually be the end of Facebook — at least, as we know it. You’ll get your chance to join eventually, and I want you to know what you can expect.
Google+, distilled to its most basic elements, is Google’s answer to Facebook. However, instead of merely saying, “Hey, we’re less smug than that little shit Mark Zuckerberg,” Google+ has improved the model. Rather than addressing privacy later, Google+ has made that a priority. This is most evident in Circles (somewhat like Facebook’s Lists but more intuitive and obvious and less of an afterthought): Instead of asking someone to be your friend, you can simply add him or her to one or more Circles on Google+: Friends, Acquaintances, Coworkers, Family, and so on. The best part of this is that no one can see which Circle they’ve been added to; you simply receive an alert telling you that you are in so-and-so’s Circles now.
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You can also “follow” people you don’t know in real life but whose posts interest you (follow me!), somewhat like on Facebook’s fan pages or on Twitter. Each time you post something, you add Circles with whom to share it; you can even share it publicly so that the entire Internet can see it. No more forgetting to hide your drunk status update from Grandma’s Stream; Google+ forces you to make a conscious choice each time you share.
Another fun social piece to Google+ is Hangouts. If you’re online, bored, and want to hang out with others without physically leaving your couch, start a Hangout to video chat with anyone in your Circles who accepts — you’ll all be able to see one another’s video feeds, so it’s sort of like being in the same room together. Facebook’s lame answer to that is just a one-on-one video chat released last week, and it’s another thing that Google has been doing for years and is already better at. In the mobile version of Google+, Huddles are similar to Hangouts as they allow you to text individuals or groups, and when someone in the group responds, everyone in the group gets a push notification on their phones.
Let’s wrap up my explanation of what Google+ actually is. I’m on Google Reader pretty much all day, every damn day. I like to read. But when my Reader is empty, Google+’s Sparks comes to the rescue. You can specify interests (bicycling, hipsters, comics, the SF Giants, etc.), and Google+ will aggregate the Internet’s latest turds on those topics. It’s like Google Reader without the work of adding RSS feeds. There will always be something to read, forever and ever.
The reason Facebook alternatives like Pip.io and Diaspora have not exactly made the media splash that Google+ has so far? Well, Google is the fastest-growing email service and the most popular search engine among Internet users, so chances are you have a Google account. Little did you know that Google owns your life. But hey, it’s totally fine! Right?! Somehow, Google always tricks me into trusting it.
I have found myself wondering what prompted this big move by Google. Here’s what I imagine went down: Google walks into Facebook’s headquarters with a suitcase full of money and says, “Sell us Facebook, or we will destroy you.” Smarmy asshole Zuckerberg is like, “Shyeah, ri-hight!” And now this is happening.
So what do you think? If you’ve used Google+, how has your experience been? If you aren’t on it yet, what excites you most about the service?
Want an invite? Leave your email address in the comments, and I’ll see what I can do.
Images courtesy of yours truly