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Circles

Google+ has been out and about now for almost a week. Have you tried it out yet? Ready to do the Google+ vs Facebook bout? Google+ is entering the social networking territory that is well-charted by Facebook. Which brings up the obvious question – do we really need Google+? Yes, we do. Facebook monopolizes the social networking domain and competition is always a good thing – it will encourage innovation and offer options.

Facebook still has a bulk of my friends and family and I am not sure how many of them will be willing to invest significant time in creating a similar social space at Google+. And without users and a social landscape where is the social networking? So, we will have to wait a while and see how many people are willing to take on yet another social tool.

What exactly does Google+ offer that can attract people to open an account?

  • Google+ has the concept of circles which I think is an elegant fix for one of the most annoying problems on Facebook. I don’t want to share all my information with everybody. I know I can create different lists of friends and family and colleagues but it is not easy or intuitive. The way Facebook works now, I find it easier to post things that I am comfortable sharing with my whole world and leaving out all the rest. This does limit my use of social media and I am hopeful that the circles idea will reduce the need for self-censorship.
  • Google+ offers Sparks as a way of tracking the latest articles and videos on topics that interest you – I tried books, social media and movies as early trials and was impressed by the range of sources from where the information was drawn. Here is the Google search engine we know and love in a different context?
  • Google+ has also anticipated the video chat that Facebook is talking about this week with its Hangout. Upto 10 of your friends and family can hang out together and chat via video. It has the potential to be a real way of connecting with groups of friends – a virtual reunion across continents with your best friends from high school, if you are so inclined!
  • Google+ is in some ways a seamless integration for me as I use Google quite extensively. My pictures are on Picasa and the upload and share from there is very simple. Those of us who use Facebook, have figured out how to do this there, but if someone is starting out with social networking today, this integrated use may be an attractive feature.
I think Facebook will continue to have the advantage of being the early bird. It is possible that the buzz around Google+ and the invitation only model will work like a fashionably late guest at a party. It is not easy at this time to declare a winner, but I think we users will benefit from the two sites duking it out as it will propel them to address our needs – both the fun and the functional!
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