So: currently being rolled out on limited trial is Google+ (what creative genius hit upon such an utterly marvellous name?), a new networking site that claims to offer greater ease at interface and greater ability to control how we share, and how much, to various individuals in ‘circles of our lives’. ‘Circles of our lives’ sounding remarkably like a line from ‘The Windmills of Your Mind’.
Facebook’s current privacy controls are a darned nuisance. It’s all or nothing, basically – which presents us with sticky situations as regards the way the personal, professional and, sometimes, political tend to all converge these days on Facebook – a problem only likely to further complicate, rather than simplify, our lives. We may want close friends to share in last night’s escapades, but we may not want others in our lives to be so well informed. On the other hand, we may want everyone to share our joy in winning Employee of the Year. Facebook, at present, only gives us the ability to share or not share updates. Period. Sharing photos to select groups will also, apparently, be far simpler than on Facebook. So it may be an end to the inner critic and the inner censor. A good thing? Erm. Discuss. But I can see the potential attraction of Google+ – particularly for the younger generation. Also for those, like myself, who seek to increasingly use social networking as a one-stop shop: a way to maintain their friendships – but also stay connected to people in their workplace or in their field (this latter objective unsatisfied by LinkedIn).
The worry, for those who love social networking but also fear disclosure (well, paradoxically, don’t we all?), is that Google+ will encourage more information sharing, albeit to different ‘circles’ of our lives, than ever before. A feeling that you’re ‘safe’. Of course, you will be safe from certain people in your life knowing The Last Detail, but Google+ will know all. Google’s start-up mantra was ‘Don’t be evil’. But how many still believe that? And then there’s the option, rather strangely lauded and welcomed by Google+, to not use real names. We know that this happens on Facebook, but it is important that it is against Facebook’s T&C and can get you booted off. Just seeing the headmaster’s ruler on the table can be a powerful thing, sometimes. I can see avenues lined with sleaze and cans of spam in such a lax approach to user management. And what about online harassment?
Google+ also offers solid, additional features that I’ve been long looking for in Facebook’s evolution – but which have so far failed to materialise. Better and tailored streaming, for instance. And video chat would help me dispense with the need for Skype. Like Facebook Chat, video chat on Google+ will allow you to create controls for your availability to other users. And you can even group chat. I certainly actively use Facebook at present to keep in touch with friends in this great world, at home and abroad. I’d like to see their faces, too. I’d like to talk. And update. And comment. And like. All at the same time.
Or perhaps, on second thoughts, I wouldn’t.
At present, I can’t tell you how it is. I am not one of the gilded selected to try and to feed their experience back. But it’s coming soon. And, as we speak, Zuckerberg’s geeks are locked in a little room somewhere in Menlo Park, with beer bombs and the clock ticking. A piece on it here.
Update: I now have an invite, so I will report anon!