Are you in the Google+ circle?

Published: July 1, 2011

Google has decided to take on the giants of the social networking world with its latest invention, Google+.

The current times might be a watershed moment in the social media world, not just in Pakistan but all around the globe. The company that may or may not cause this revolution is Google.

In the past, Google has eliminated whatever competition came in its path of it’s search engine to the extent that “Google it” has replaced “search for it” in our vocabulary. It did the same when it integrated photos via Picasa and documents via Google Docs.

It has however not been able to make a place for itself in the social networking world but then the company’s only attempt was the half-baked Google Buzz. Now, Google has decided to take on the giants with its latest project Google+, a complete social networking stream and site, the likes of which we have never seen before.

Although it is closed for the general public right now, I received an invitation to check out its Beta version.

So, what is the difference between Google+ and Facebook? I think we can limit this down to three broad areas:

1. Google+ Hands on and Circles

The basic content stream may look Facebook-ish, but the approach is entirely different under the hood. First of all, instead of categories among friends we have ‘circles.’ You can add and subtract your contacts to these circles.

What is really cool is how you can target different circles and share different content streams with them without going crazy with privacy settings ala Facebook. For instance you can say “I hate you all” in a status update and share it with a circle called ‘losers’ – very streamlined.

The ‘like’ button has been replaced by the ‘plus one’ button and there is a separate box aggregating this in your profile as a ‘brag it’ badge.You can add the usual pictures, videos and all that jazz to any content stream and they show up in a much wider space as well – so less scrolling, more ogling.

2. Hangout

Not being satisfied with taking Facebook on, the brains behind G+ have thrown a challenge at Skype as well.

This feature is not available everywhere in Pakistan at the moment (do we have to wonder why?) but will involve your name showing as online and ready to “hang” if allowed. Through this an audio/video conference can be initiated between the parties. Don’t ask me how I tested this but I found it very fast and streamlined.

The feature also offers YouTube integration, letting users collaboratively watch videos and create running commentaries in the chat, or verbally using the new Google Voice Search technology. Imagine live cricket match replays on it – with all of your friends.

3. Huddle

To me, the best feature of the new G+ social network is its ability to cross platform chat. Yes, Facebook has its chat but then that’s just plain annoying and this module is very similar to Gtalk and even faster in its mobile version which is available in the G+ app for android. So, as soon as it’s available for Nokia, Blackberry and iPhone, we can say “bye bye” to Whatsapp and that cave to cave… umm… Blackberry to Blackberry network known as BBM.

Will Google+ destroy Facebook and Skype?

No, but I believe it has the capability to do so. What remains to be seen is how Google is going to secure this network, because that’s one of the snags Facebook has run into, such as accounts being hacked or there being no end to security vulnerabilities in third party applications.

Will it remain invite only?

Fat chance of that if Google wants to dent the competition. What will be needed in the long-run though, is an “all in one dashboard” because users, even social media geeks, will get tired of maintaining so many different profiles. Google+, by integrating search, Gmail, Google documents, Google Maps and its own social stream has the firepower to provide us with that one stop solution.

What local users think:

There were many different reactions from the first users of G+ in Pakistan’s social media, some of which are given below.

Sohail Anjum -

Still trying to work my head around it and come to terms with it.

Shoaib Taimur -

I like the idea of Google Plus though it seems a bit barren at the moment. I would love for Google to open this trial for everyone. Overall it’s not confusing as Google Wave, though it ain’t a Facebook killer.

Hasan Nizamani -

A good attempt of Google, with some good features and idea. But a bit too late as most of the features are already in other social networking services, so people will get tired of G+ soon. After all we’re updating status, +1 (liking) them and commenting on them, adding more friends (circles), adding photos, videos .. all of these are already on Facebook. Yea a different approach is here, but that’s not good enough to penetrate the social market.

Awab Alvi -

Decent attempt by G+: I think Google must realize it specializes in “Search” maybe tapping the social network may help refine its search engines but it should not dabble too extensively and hope to edge into Facebook’s turf as it already has a 700 million head start. As I don’t think Google+ will trigger a mass exodus from Facebook, but it might start something like the slow food movement amongst social network.

Usman Latif -

I believe, for majority of the people, it will be just like maintaining another social network and that’s it. People are not going to move away from Facebook.

faisal.kapadia

Faisal Kapadia

A Karachi based writer who blogs at deadpanthoughts.com and tweets @faisalkapadia (twitter.com/faisalkapadia)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.