Is Google+ worth joining?

I just joined Google+ a couple of days ago. I wasn’t sure what to do with it at first, but fortunately there are already several excellent guides with tips on how to get started for G+ n00bs like me.

Google+ = More than Facebook

Everyone seems to be touting G+ as the next Facebook, but, as Christina Trapolino has already pointed out, it has the potential to become so much more than that.

Bianca Bosker over on HuffPo has compiled a list of 6 Things Google+ Has That Facebook Doesn’t – though a more accurate title might be “Several things G+ does that Facebook doesn’t do quite as well”.

I’m still playing around, but I can share what I like so far.

One dozens? hundreds? of rings to rule them all

The circles feature is pretty nifty. It allows you to group contacts/friends/followed people into various categories, often overlapping, so you can post content aimed at that specific group. When you hit share, it’s abundantly clear which circle(s) will be able to view the content you’re posting. That’s a huge win. You can still share content publicly so it can be seen by anyone, though that’s not always a great idea.

HappyPlace posted “21 Google Plus Circles You Can Actually Use”, which, though tongue in cheek, touches on another problem. Circumstances change, and the people we put in a given circle will change, and when you’ve got a lot of people to organize shifting circles may become tedious. Sarah Perez warns that circles may not be sustainable. Then again, we may never be able to digitally organize our friends in a coherent way.

Other Features

Many of the features can be found on other social networking platforms in various forms, but Google’s layout seems to be cleaner and more intuitive.

Group video chats allow you to “hang out” with people you don’t even know (as well as those you do). It’s a different approach to Chatroulette, in that you can choose which circles you make yourself available to, or create a hang out where others can join . Kinda cool.

You can use the same circles to define who can view your photos, or certain aspects of your profile.

I’m still a little fuzzy on the value of Sparks, which acts as a mini news reader filtered for whatever subjects you’re interested in. Featured interests include Cycling, Movies, Sports Cars, and, naturally, Android. You can also add any additional interests of your choosing. Personally, I’d rather see the Google Reader here, and share blog posts of interest as they’re read, but perhaps that will be developed in later versions.

Sounds good, but…isn’t Google is evil?

Despite their motto? Well, kinda.

I know this, you know this, but it’s difficult to get along on the Internet today without being involved with something that Google owns – search engines, ads, e-mail, Blogger, YouTube – it’s endless.

I recently discovered that Google logs your search history as well. Apparently I’ve searched for 6261 things on Google since April 2008. It tracked my key words, frequency, and which websites I clicked on. I’d just assumed this information was being collected as anonymous data for Google’s algorithms, but no, it’s personalized. And now with Google+, we’ll be feeding it even more, unifying our online presence under purview of a single corporation. Devin Coldewey called Google “Troll-Borg” – and it’s true, we will all be assimilated.

One day Google will effectively own the Internet by claiming ownership of all our content and there’s very little we seem to want to do about it. Remember kids, “if you’re not paying for an online service, you’re not the customer; you’re the product“. As long as we all know that, then…well, nothing really. That’s just the way it is.

So…go for it anyway?

I admit, I like G+. I was hesitant at first (see above), but it’s growing on me. It’s like the best of the old LJ, Twitter, Facebook and blogging all rolled in to one sexy new package. I don’t know when or if it will replace other platforms – it’s still only available in a limited beta form after all – but I do think it will become a major player in social networking. Heck, it already is.

Not everyone’s pleased, Farhad Manjoo wrote  an article for Slate with the adorably snarky title “More Like Google Minus“, but despite its current flaws, I’ve already seen a significant migration from Facebook to Google+. Many people are still posting in both places, but fewer seem to be bothering each day.

Sure, your old high school buddies and parents may be slow on the uptake, but they’re not the people you follow for news and entertainment anyway. But eventually even they will join, form circles, and one day Google will pwn us all.

 Go for it.

I’m still learning my way around, but so far it’s neat. If you need an invite, let me know – I’ll hook you up.

If you’re already there add me. I’m easy to find under the user friendly handle 101964728746673644376.

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