September 20, 2011
Google+ Goes Live To Everyone
Google’s new attempt at a social network is now open to the general Google user community, and from Google’s perspective, anyone who would like to join that community. The service started some three months ago and attracted interest from the general public. The old saying is the third time is a charm. That may be true for Google. Their first attempt came when the company created Orkut in 2004. That service became popular in Brazil and India, but failed to gain traction in many other parts of the world. The second came a few years ago when Google introduced Buzz as part of the Gmail interface. Google drew fire and lawsuits when it got sloppy on user privacy controls by joining people together via their address books. Welcome, now, to Google+.
The Official Google Blog announces the general availability of the site as well as several new features added to the Google+ experience. One of these is called Hangouts. It is, essentially, a live, public video chat that can be organized around a specific group, event or activity. The announcement notes Hangouts with extras, which include the ability of participants to share screens, create graphics with each other, collaborate via Google Docs, or create a public hangout where everyone is watching the same sporting event. I can visualize students using this feature for group projects where they create a document and discuss it in real time without everyone having to be in the same place. Hangouts may prove to be a convenient productivity tool if Google supports it with enough resources.
I wrote a post in June called Some Thoughts on Social Media where I described my lack of participation in Facebook, Twitter, and the like. As I said then, it’s not that I disapproved of the “social experience” as much as I thought it exposed way more information to the world than necessary, and that it seemed to take a lot of time away from more important things to expose that information. For some reason I can’t quite explain, I joined Google+. It’s not as if Google doesn’t know who I am. I’ve had a Gmail account for the last 5 years or so. Joining up was a click to add a new Google service for all practical purposes.
Google didn’t ask for much information beyond my real name and a few other details that anyone would be able to find via a web search in any event. The privacy controls seemed to respect privacy (so far) and the push to socialize seemed very soft sell. As publicized, the site is organized into circles, pretty much like real life. One of the funniest comments I read when this whole thing started was, “you know who else organized his friends into circles? Dante.” I added two people who I actually knew to my friends list and ignored suggestions by Google to add others whom I knew by name. The site suggests that I have at least 10 friends to make the experience worthwhile, though it was hardly aggressive about pushing my level of engagement. If anything, I feel as if I have control of my presence compared to what I know of the other social sites. We'll see if this changes.
Here’s to my great experiment in the online social world. Even though I’m connected, so to speak, I can’t imagine being that interesting in this context. I promise not to update on how many times I clean the catbox. [MG]