First Impressions of Google+

If you have Internet access, you have probably heard of Google+, which is basically the search engine giant’s answer to Facebook.

If you don’t have Internet access, how are you reading this?

Like Facebook, Google + lets users and their friends share every detail about their personal life. The difference, and Mountain View-based Google’s selling point, is that you can put your friends, acquaintances and family members into different, customizable “circles,” so different information is shared with different users.

At first glance, it seems like a decent way to manage information feed and the dreaded “mom is on Facebook” dilemma. Also, users’ contacts won’t know which circle they are in, which would avoid the complications of having to publicly describe peers as “friends” or “acquaintances.”

If circle scheme works, users may indeed be able to acknowledge that they do indeed have a mother while still having the freedom to post pictures involving massive amounts of tequila and poor judgment.

There’s also a “Sparks
function that allows users to follow pretty much any topic. Default
topics include cycling and soccer – because someone besides the New York
Times’ Style section has to pick up the Stuff White People Like forgot
to post new entries – and comics, because everybody with computer access
is a comic book fan.

I selected “Dodgers’ as my first topic, and have yet to see how it
works. I’m guessing Sparks will function like a live Google search,
which may end up being too depressing this season, even if the first
item was a Los Angeles Times article about Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and
Clayton Kershaw playing well in the All-Star Game.

Beyond that, it’s difficult for me to assess how well Google+ compares
to Facebook. It’s still in the early stages and Google is allowing access on an invite-only basis* New members get the privilege of inviting their friends to join and increase Google’s market penetration.

I only have two people
in my circle, although that may say more about me than than
Google+. For now, Google is requiring prospective users to
invite their friends, which creates the illusion of exclusivity that Facebook once had when users actually had to be in university students to make a profile.

That changed, obviously, so any veneer of exclusivity for Google+ exclusivity is just a large-scale marketing ploy in the tradition of Tom Sawyer’s fence. Google+ is also pretty transparent about the search engine company’s plans to go global.

Users getting in to Google+ will immediately see their Gmail contacts listed as potential friends, which can be a little unnerving for anyone who likes to think that privacy still exists. “Social media” is really just a polite word for data mining, and Facebook – let alone Google+ – would not exist if people did not expect to make big money from advertising to these services’ users.

But on the other hand, too much complaints would be hypocritical, because I do find Facebook to be useful for keeping in touch with old friends and professional contacts, so keep your eyes open and pick your poison accordingly.

Nonetheless, the rise of personalized advertising has convinced me that “Minority Report” is a much better and more prescient film than I think people gave it credit for. Isn’t it time you had a nice new luxury car?

*Credit goes to Inland Valley Daily Bulletin colleague Liset Marquez for the invite making this blog post possible.