Despite a positive early reception to the service, the big challenge for Google+ isn’t pleasing users in its first few days, it’s finding a solid place for it in their lives in the long term. What will that place be? At present, it’s difficult to say. Looking at the currently big social networks, they fit into a few core categories:
- Sharing and communicating with friends: Facebook, Hyves, Orkut etc. - Sharing quick thoughts, news and opinions: Twitter - Business-focused networking: LinkedIn, Xing, Viadeo etc.
So where does Google+ fit into this? It manages to sit across all these verticals. The big question is, can Google convince a groundswell of people to make the switch from their existing social networks?
Facebook is fundamentally built around one-to-one friending. The Twitter model is that one user publicly follows another. Google+ is a lot more complicated than any of these.
While using the snazzy animated Circle-creation tool may come more naturally to others (early adopters seem to be mad with love for Google+), I think this is likely to be a stumbling block for many people. Perhaps digital relationships won’t be naturally nuanced and eroded over time like real-world relationships, because digital things just don’t do that. They exist, or they do not.
And it may just be that privacy is incredibly difficult to illustrate and conceptualize. But lots of things seem hard at the start; maybe we as humans will teach ourselves to understand this stuff better over time.
Out of the box, Google+ seems to have got this right - the entire project is geared towards limited and selective sharing.
However, this is where Google+ gets into hot water. There is a lot that can start to go wrong at this point. To get it right, Google+ relies on users being able to fully articulate their social circles, which people actually cannot do. We're simply not wired to be fully cognizant of what social circles we actually move in or who they are made up of. Beyond friends and family, every other social group we belong to is induced by a common purpose.
if users do not define circles, there is nothing to do on Google+ -- absolutely nothing.