Circles vs. Lists – A Few Thoughts on Google+

KTLA Channel 5 aired a story today about Google+, asking if the world needs another social network.  A fair question. They also recommended giving Google+ a try, because it allows you to group your friends into circles and share your information specifically with the people in those circles.
Whenever I hear this, I tend to sigh and say: “You can already do that in Facebook!” using lists.  It’s true.  Basically, Google+ centralizes many of Facebook’s features into one location, and puts a pretty bow on it.

If you haven’t already gotten tired of reading one’s opinion about Google+, allow me to explain.

When we first started using Facebook, we needed to know who our friends were, to request to be their friend online, and to wait for that request.  This implies that we know everyone we’re friends with on Facebook and places some restrictions on who sees what, limiting our social interaction to those folks we know, not necessarily those folks we’d like to know.

For example, on Twitter I can follow anyone I want, like @rainnwilson.  He’s a funny guy, but he doesn’t need to be my friend on Twitter in order for me to appreciate his pithy wit.  Which is good for Rainn, because he’s got a job of his own, and co-creator of Soul Pancake, and likely doesn’t have any sort of time for the masses of followers retweeting him like word paparrazzi.

Facebook allows similar one-sided interaction between person and audience using Facebook Pages, without limiting folks to 140 characters. So anyone who “Likes” Rainn’s Page is able to see a different set of content — videos, article links — without having to personally know the guy.

That’s Google+.  A Facebook Fan Page that incorporates features of a Facebook Personal Page to have a conversation with your “fans” when you want to, and to limit what you say to them when you don’t.

Google+ claims that this is due to its inclusive nature. You INCLUDE your family and friends when you want to. You tailor your posts to what you know they’re interested in.  And you could do that in Facebook, too.

For instance, during those dark times of my life when I was addicted to Farmville, none of my Facebook friends knew because I made sure the innumerable Farmville posts I needed to send out only went to those on my Farmville list.  Those on my Farmville list were also likely in my Acquaintances list, and so were excluded from my normal Facebook posts by default. Which was handy if I was posting a quick thought from a mobile app.

So: going back to KTLA’s story: Does the world need another social network?  I’d say no, but I’m not saying that Google+ shouldn’t have a chance.  I like Facebook for the control it gives me. It’s not pretty, but it’s functional.  I like Twitter for the people who compose their posts like artists, and for the “right-thereness” of the information.  I don’t think that Google+ will replace those networks based upon the fact that it uses circles to group one’s connections.

Rather, I want to explore Hangouts, which appears to be a Google version of the Tweetup, with video capacity. Similary, I think Huddle, the group chat, would be neat.  These opportunities to interface with more than one person within the Google+ network holds more promise to me than the initial hype. I’m hoping that once more of my friends are able to join this network(and as Google’s developers make a few tweaks here and there), Google+ will have more relevance for me. Otherwise, I’ll likely use it as frequently as Google Buzz, which I remember to check once in a blue moon.

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