Friday, July 8, 2011


Google's homepage in 1998
The Google+ feature that is arguably getting the most coverage right now is Circles. Circles allow users to organize their friends into different groupings. You could have Circles for Friends, Family, Work, etc. You then have the choice of what Circles you include any time you post. Those of us who are fond of our privacy like Circles a lot. Those who are fond of Facebook seem to make one of a couple of different arguments. Either they insist that people don't want to be bothered with organizing their friends or they point out that Facebook has had Circles in the form of lists for a while now.

I can't speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself when I say that yes, I do want to be able to easily sort people into different groupings. This is as much for their benefit as it is for mine. If I'm going to make a trip up to Oregon do the 75% of people on my Facebook friends list who do not live up there really need to know? With Circles they don't have to. So long as I take a few minutes to create a circle of my Oregon based friends I can simply and easily send out a message that only they see. Everyone wins.

I'm an input junkie. I'm in front of a computer an average of around fourteen hours a day between work and recreation. I'm constantly reading, chatting, writing, etc. In short I can take a lot of incoming bandwidth without too much trouble. Even I have my limits though. Anything that encourages others to filter what they share is good so far as I'm concerned. So, in addition to enhancing privacy, Circles also encourage people not to waste the time of others. These are both good things.

In regards to Facebook and Lists, I recall fairly clearly that lists were added begrudgingly. They were never easy to use and have gotten buried deeper in the Facebook UI as time has gone on. It seems clear based on this that Facebook is a bit lukewarm on the concept of giving us tools to protect our privacy and minimize the amount of spam that we send to people in our social circles. (no pun intended)

Featuring Circles prominently may just end up being the make or break feature of G+. It's certainly Google's strongest differentiator right now and while the current implementation is fairly powerful it still needs some refinement. A stronger tie to Google contacts and the ability to choose a default circle are two suggestions I've seen that I'd like to see Google put in place.

If Google starts to gain significant momentum we'll likely see Facebook do a quick UI makeover that brings into the light of day. Or, Facebook could continue trying to trash the whole concept. I think there is a good chance that is the route they'll take, at least for awhile.

I wonder if the people at Facebook are wishing they'd completed their IPO already. I sense the very real possibility that billions of dollars are rapidly evaporating with each passing day.

Image via Wikipedia
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