It seems you can’t take two steps without stepping over a mention of Facebook. Just in the past week, I’ve attended a launch of two new phones (the budget-priced HTC ChaCha and Salsa, and yes, those are the product names), both of which feature prominent “F” buttons. Not in a non-family friendly sense; these are buttons that directly link your activity on the smartphone at the time to your Facebook account. So if you’re taking a photo, it’ll upload that photo to Facebook. If you’re browsing the Web, it’ll share that link, and so on.
At the same time that Facebook seems to have taken over the lives of an increasing proportion of the Internet community, Google’s soft-launched its latest social networking platform. This isn’t Google’s first crack at an online social community platform. Google Wave sank without much note and Google Buzz invited criticism for its seeming lack of actual privacy. The latest social network to emerge from Google is known simply as Google+.
Google+’s basic layout is a mix of what you’d expect if you’re an existing Facebook user with a lighter layout tone, such as you’d expect out of Google. It’s early days as yet — so far, the only way to get onto Google+ is via invitation, and the early release of Google+ saw the company restrict invites several times due to overload issues. There’s a few neat inbuilt touches that Google+ brings to the social networking scene. Instead of “friending” people, you add them to self-defined “circles”. These can be friends, acquaintances — basically anything you like, as you’re the only one who sees your friend definitions. Then when you post anything, you choose which circles see your content.
This also highlights a key difference (at the moment) between Google+ and Facebook. Facebook’s “friending” is a two way relationship, where once a friendship is established, both sides see all posts from both people, unless specifically noted otherwise through Facebook’s often labyrinthine privacy menus. Google+’s “Circles” offer one-way sharing. You can add anybody to a circle, but all you’re doing is posting to them; there’s no implicit agreement that they’ll then share material back with you.
It’s early days for Google+ as yet. I do like the interface, which is cleaner and quicker than Facebook, not to mention uncluttered with things like Farmville”¦ so far. Having said that, what Google’s done is being described by the company as a “field trial” of the service, and it’ll need a significant uptake of users to start seriously challenging Facebook.
What do you think? Are you willing (or even interested) in taking on another social network?