I can hear the collective scratching of heads across the world as people are pondering whether they should use Google+. Your tech/web friends have all loudly blabbered about it on Facebook or Twitter and now you are wondering what the fuss is all about? Bandwidthblog has a write-up here to educate yourself on what Google+ brings to the table.
Should you jump ship, abandon your farms and party photos to a new social network? Not yet. Google+ is experimenting with a new model of online interaction, called ‘Circles’ (which is similar to Diaspora’s ‘aspects’).
Facebook’s interaction is simple. If we accept, we both see each other’s information: a simple handshake if you will. Twitter’s interaction is asynchronous: I follow you what you say, but it is not necessary to reciprocate and follow back.
Google+’s interaction is a bit more complicated. On the get-go you add individuals to certain circles of your life (‘work’,’friends’,’music buddies’, etc). When you share something, you share it with whatever circles you choose. Once that funny cat video is shared, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the people whom you intended it for will actually see it. If they don’t add you to a circle, it will appear in the ‘incoming’ stream (incoming stream? what?). Another important thing to note, is that ‘circles’ are known only to you. If you add “Rob Bikeperson” to “Biker Mice from Bars”, they will only know that they have been added to “a” circle, but not which specific one. In other words, you have your own context about the certain circles of your life and another person has their own context.
Are you lost?

Exactly. Here is a graph to make it easier to understand. Click to enlarge:

Still lost? Exactly.
Some web enthusiasts are claiming the downfall of Facebook (and Twitter). To me Google+ just works differently. It is a new and interesting experiment around the idea of putting different facets of your life front and center. Putting it online comes with its own territory.
Google+ as it stands now is for users who are information consumers. The majority of users on Facebook aren’t facing this problem to such an extent that they would take the effort to understand a new model such as Google+. It’s an important iteration, but not the killer social network that it wants to be.
Graph: By Lee S. translated and reposted by Axel Aigret, Cyril Galliné and Nathalie Gilson. You can view it here.

  1. I don’t know, to me the idea of circles is simple and intuitive.
    I don’t /want/ to share everything with everyone and often find myself thinking “Hmm I won’t tweet this because only so and so will find it interesting”. Now, I have circles to solve this for me.

    1. Agreed, I have the same problem. It is up for debate, but I don’t think the majority of people care so much about sharing information online that they will take the effort to effectively segregate their social circles. What do you think?

    1. Yeah! It is surprising how fast people can hack things together these days! Read an interesting article on Hacker News about Google’s culture in the beginning compared to Facebook’s culture (small group of engineers, very hacker-like). 
      It just goes to show that web ideas aren’t worth much in this age. Facebook can easily copy Google’s Circles in their ‘lists’. It is how you market and execute it. It also reminds of the the guy that made a Qwiki clone. Companies could get away with a competitive advantage in superior tech, but it doesn’t seem like it is the case anymore.

      1. Agreed – agile development focused cultures driven by young talented hackers are key to success 

  2. The select few that will benefit from (or contribute to) G+ are already on G+. The rest will pass it by only to Google (see what I did there?) “Facebook login.”

  3. Circles aren’t nearly as complicated as you make out – the idea is actually pretty simple and intuitive, and is a much closer model to the way people interact in real life. And of course the circles thing is only one of many aspects to consider when comparing the two.
    See http://wagtastic.blogspot.com/2011/07/google-and-facebook-compared.html for my own, more comprehensive comparison

    1. The biggest problem to me is that context is lost in the middle, and this is where I agree to a certain extent with Mark Zuckerberg. Real life interaction happens in a certain context and you know when that context is relevant. If you are with your friends, you are more comfortable sharing funny party photos of the night before, compared to say your work-group or family-group. With Google+’s circles, you can’t easily deduce in what context the sharing happened. You can click the ‘limited’ button to see with whom it has been shared and conduct yourself accordingly, but this isn’t useful at all! If a friend shares a party pic, I might want to conduct myself as I am with my close friends. Assuming that, that person actually shared with all his circles (without checking the ‘limited’ option), I might blabber something stupid that I don’t want everyone to see.
      Then it comes down to what Robert Scoble once said: Don’t put anything online you would want everyone to see (the billboard principle) and THAT defeats the purpose of Google+.

  4. Google+ is lame and confusing. And I have tech roots. Goodluck trying to get my mom on it. Twitter is also too hard for mainstream to use. Which is why they haven’t. Google+ is way harder than both.

  5. Come  on if google+ is too complicated then I don’t know. Really, the circles are not difficult to grasp, in fact they are a simple elegant solution. If you find it difficult I’m  not sure why you’re writing for a technical blog.

  6. Yeah, you’re making it sound more complicated than it really is. The truth is that it’s more intuitive and simple than Facebook’s groups (by far). The system works.

    1. I don’t think so. With a Facebook group, each user understands the context in which the sharing happens. Let’s say we have a company of 10 employees. On Facebook, sharing between the group can easily happen in the current groups format. Everyone can each other and understand the context of the sharing.
      With Google+, if I have an “work” circle and would like to share the same information, I would have to specify in the post that, that is my intention, otherwise the people in my work won’t know if it was intended for them or not. ie: “Hey colleagues, here is something interesting! “. I don’t know the context in which anyone shares something on Google+, only that it was intended for me.

  7. There is room for all 3 social networks in my view – peaceful co-existence!
    1. Facebook – staying in touch with friends and family (sure, you can now “subscribe” to those beyond the realms of your social influence, but for the time being, it isn’t the primary reason people use Facebook). 
    2. Twitter – keeping up to date with those beyond your realm of social influence (news services, celebrities, journalists, etc). On Twitter (for the majority of users), even though the majority of people you follow don’t often know you – you still know them (mainly because, quite simply, they have some level of fame).
    3. Google+ – keeping in touch and seeing content not from friends and family (Facebook) or from the rich and famous (Twitter) but from everyday, ordinary people who share similar interests to you. Keen photographer? Follow a few “circles” of photographers, and in no time you will have a fantastic stream of new images in no time. Keen gamer? Writer? Into the outdoors? Tech? Science? You name it, there are millions of people out there with similar interests to yourself, sharing or creating interesting content in subject matters that you relate to. 
    I have left some further thoughts about this topic at http://www.droidappoftheday.com/2011/11/google.html +

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