I love Google+. I’ve been on it for 24 hours now, thanks to my friend John Schultz, and I can safely say it takes the best of what Facebook stole from Twitter and wraps it up in a clean and fresh interface. It lacks the distractions of apps and ads and focuses on the most useful component of any social network: the news feed.
While Google brings some heavy ammunition to bear on the social network problem, we’ve seen in the past that the best idea doesn’t always win. Look at FriendFeed or Cliqset. Both were products that offered interesting approaches, solutions superior to existing offerings. The problem that each suffered was the same. Neither was Facebook. Neither was Twitter.
I have a bunch of friends who are happy with feature phones. They’re lucky if they have a Facebook account so they can post about how much they hate technology. They don’t understand Twitter, much less have an account. They’d rather mock the silliness of the name than spend time trying to understand the value that it brings.
I’m not going to spend time typing the same recycled thoughts that you can read on a thousand different blogs. Google+ reviews abound, most coming to the conclusion that it’s cute and Google is big, but that there isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. Google+ is a repackaging, they’ll tell you, of the same now-standard feature sets that originated with Friendster and MySpace.
What I will say is that what was tough before is now becoming impossible. I was already having to carefully meter the attention and time I spent on Facebook and Twitter, never feeling caught up with either service. As Google+ enters the ring, it’s going to be even more difficult.
The answer to the social networking challenge was syndication, according to myself and others. Since nobody has time to spend all day on social networks, the solution was to post to one and have it syndicate that update to the other networks. I currently have my tweets post to Facebook and my blog. My pictures I send to yFrog end up on my blog and on Twitter and on Facebook. It’s not the best solution, but it’s better than having to post the same content manually to each service.
The problem with syndication is that it fractures the interactions. I’d tweet and get some replies on Twitter. That tweet would simultaneously be posted to my Facebook profile where it would get some comments. The twitter replies were ignorant of the Facebook comments and vice versa, causing a fractured conversation.
We’ve seen the problems of walled gardens. AOL and Compuserve and Prodigy each had proprietary content generated by their respective users. In the end, their models changed, and each began allowing users to access the community content that was the Internet, focusing on providing access and an interface to that community content.
The same decentralization must happen with social content. The posts and pictures and comments that we generate on each service must be accessible to users of other services. I should be able to tweet and have you see it on Facebook. Your comment that you leave on Facebook should be visible on Google+ where someone else should be able to comment.
We’re a long ways away from parity of function between services. It’s coming. It must. When we elect to use a service, it should be because that service provides the most compelling interface to the underlying social layer on the public Internet.