In the wake of Google’s announcement of heir new social network, called Google Plus (or Google +), the inevitable question has been asked: Can it succeed given Google’s poor history with social networking? As Katie Rogers explained:
My particular corner of the newsroom often feels like some sort of social media crash-test dummy area. This means that while my colleagues and I could probably sign up for and participate in a beta launch during our deepest REM cycle, we’re also quick to move on if a new product isn’t working out. (Ahem, Rockmelt.)
So on Tuesday, when Google unleased Google+, its newest attempt at social networking, I reacted to the news with what I think is a healthy degree of skepticism.
First of all, Google’s invite-style beta launches drive me batty. Let’s jog our collective memory back to 2009, when people were selling Google Wave invites for $70 on eBay — the mad scramble led those chosen ones to a platform that was largely confusing, pretty buggy and, well, mostly empty. (In the end, we saw how well that venture worked out.) The Wave’s problem was that it was just too antisocial, the next-door neighbor that couldn’t quite figure out how to join the party.
While Google Wave felt like an island, it’s invite-free cousin, Google Buzz, was too chatty, spamming our mailboxes with friend-approved posts on everything from kitten photos to hard news. In my world, pruning your Gmail inbox to be free of spam-like e-mails can feel dangerously close to a competitive sport. With Buzz, the din was overwhelming.
There’s no sweet spot with Google, no Goldilocks product that has made us turn our collective eyeballs away from Facebook. Although initial reviews border on the positive, and I’m intrigued by the fact that an Apple alum designed it, I think I’ll take a few seconds before declaring Google+ The Next Facebook. And, from the looks of it, my fellow denizens on Twitter are also reacting with a raised eyebrow:
While Google + was the major announcment for the company this week, there were several smaller announcments which deserve notice. As Hayley Tsukayama reported:
On Tuesday, in the wake of the + announcement, Google announced that it is rolling out new designs for its search pages and other products. The most noticeable change is one that’s been spotted by quite a few people in the past few days — a gray and black navigation toolbar that floats overhead on all Google pages.
The company also made a couple subtle changes to its homepage, shrinking its logo and moving the links to the edges of the page.
The redesign doesn’t stop there, according to digital creative director Chris Wiggins said in a blog post.
“Starting today and over the course of the next few months, look for a series of design improvements across all our products, including Google Search, Google Maps and Gmail,” he promised.
While many have compared Google Plus to Facebook in its design and function, Alexandra Petri had a different opinion of the comparison:
Google Plus isn’t the new Facebook. It’s the grown-up Facebook. Perhaps this makes it the anti-Facebook.
In one of Google’s informative videos for it, someone says in a level, reasonable voice, “I have lots to share, but I don’t want to share everything with everyone.” Then she adds, “I don’t want to see everyone’s updates all the time.”
What? Where has she been all this time? These days, I will gladly share my medical and dental records and remarks about the state of the economy and a peculiar thing that occured to me in the shower with anyone who asks, undiscriminatingly. Some blame my upbringing. I blame Facebook.It has made this kind of oversharing not only accepted but standard.
Not tell everyone everything all the time? This sounds terrifyingly mature.
In fact, if I could make any prediction about the fledgling social network, it’s that Google Plus is going to skew older than its blue-interfaced counterpart.
Every so often I will learn of a Trend and email my friends about it. This, I hear, dates me, or so the “New York Times” trends writers claim. Apparently, the Youth These Days no longer email. They prefer to text, because you can begin a text with “Yo” without the interface judging you. Facebook is making a concerted effort to appeal to the bunch who don’t email but text. “Email takes too many words,” they say. “And you have to use complete sentences. Please! You don’t even have complete thoughts.”
So when Google makes a network that I actively want to join, I become terrified. Is this my Rubicon? Have I — grown up?
After all, the social network problem is the party problem: “Who’s going to be there?” This question was once rude. Now it’s basic. What will Google Plus’s answer to the question be?
More from The Washington Post
TechCrunch: Google Plus first thoughts
Faster Forward: Google Plus takes aim at Facebook
TechCrunch: Is Google asking the wrong question with social?