Google+ A social bubble?

Post By hayluke ~ 30th June 2011

Google+ A social bubble?

Google launched its latest social media offering yesterday, Google+ (or ‘Google Plus’). Apart from a very bad name, I’m with Silicon Beach on this one, what is Google+ all about? Can it be a real challenger to Facebook or will it be a failure like Wave and Buzz?

This excellent blog post and video from Brandwatch does good job of summing it up. I also agree with the conclusion of the blog that it’s going to be a real struggle for Google’s latest offering to overcome Facebook. With over 500 million members Facebook is going to be a difficult beast to slay but despite a poor social media track record if anyone can do it then Google can. The failure of Buzz and Wave will have given Google insights into what people don’t want from social media and it looks like they may have learned from their mistakes.

From the videos I’ve seen of Google+ the interface looks great even just watching the videos makes me want to start using it (anyone got any invites??). It also offers some new functionality that Facebook does not, yet. You can be pretty sure that the designers and developers over at Facebook Towers are going to be just as interested in Google+ as the rest of us and it wouldn’t surprise me if we start seeing some big changes to the Facebook interface sooner rather than later.

One thing that particularly caught my attention when I first started reading about Google+ was the Circles functionality. This is a way of segmenting your ‘friends’ into groups. The obvious way to do this is to split people off into Friends/Family/Colleagues but you will also be able to do this by interest groups. My first thought on this was that it’s a great option to have. I met someone years ago proposing something very similar (though his model was more akin to Twitter than Facebook) and I’ve often wondered why it’s never taken off. It is (apparently) available in Facebook but it’s not very intuitive and certainly not a core part of updating your status. I’m always posting updates that only really seem relevent to segments of my followers/friends so this would be a good way to communicate with different groups in different ways.

However, when I started to think about social filtering in more detail, and after reading an excellent presentation on Real Life Social Networks I began to consider whether this really is a good thing or whether it’s just going to create another kind of Filter Bubble.

On twitter I currently follow 209 people and I read most of what those 209 people say. I wonder though, what I’d miss out on if social networks like Twitter and Facebook became more filtered? To quote Eric Schmidt “It will be very hard for people to watch or consume something that has not, in some sense, been tailored for them.” Could increased use of filtering make this the case for social media? Adding filters to social networks will probably remove some of the ‘irrelevant’ content but sometimes the ‘irrelevant’ content can be the most entertaining part of them!

Also, on a social level, if we’re only ever seeing the same side to people (the side they want you to see) then there’s a danger that we’ll learn less about people. I genuinely feel I’ve got to ‘know’ people through Twitter and Facebook just by hearing about their everyday lives. If there was filtering in place then I wonder if I would have seen the same information. If I was following someone who I’d only met at a work event then perhaps I’d be on their ‘web’ filter and only hear about their work/internet related activities and not about their passion for scuba diving or what their favourite Brighton pub is.

While the filtering aspect used Google+ Circles looks great and will almost certainly mean less people swearing in front of their mothers on social networks in future (sorry mum) could it also mean that social networks become a little bit less ‘social’?

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  1. July 1st, 2011 at 9:56 am

    I think that the biggest strength of Google+ is that it runs off your email, it’s the classic point of people wanting to click as few times as possible. I’m much happier logging into Google and having everything there, I don’t want to have to login to Facebook as well!

    Obviously the big hole in that is it would have to be a better and equally as popular network to take advantage of my laziness and stop me going to Facebook.

    And the other thing is I’m a big fan of being able to press the enter key and actually go down a line in a comment box rather than it posting my half formed comment. Whoever came up with that little time saving idea at Facebook that now means you have to press shift and enter to go down a line was not using their common sense.

    • Luke

      July 1st, 2011 at 10:48 am

      You make some good points Digby. Having tried it out myself now my initial thoughts are:

      You really need to think about how to label your circles. What I’ve got set up at the moment is rubbish and I keep having to create new circles when I get new ‘friends’. I’ll probably end up getting too detailed and making a different circle for every friend (Brighton based people who I used to work with who like cycling and are over 6ft tall who own a dog etc).

      The Sparks thing seems a basic at the moment but will no doubt improve over time and become more relevant and interesting. For example, one thing I noticed was it offered me a category of ‘football’ with a photo of a man kicking a football but when I subscribed(?) to it it turned out to be about American football and was banging on about Quarter Backs and what-have-you.

      I’ve not tried out the Hangout thing as it sounds like the kind of place you might get mugged. I’ll post my thoughts when I get the chance to give it a go though…

  2. July 1st, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    We have been using it the last couple of days and it’s brilliant, I honestly believe having used it it will become a giant of a social media network see our comments.

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