That is, of course, only one way of looking at Google’s labour of over one year, when the team guys sat writing codes, eager to make as big an impact in the social media sector as in the mail, search, photo and document storage domains.
This time, they were also hoping to do one better than Orkut, which was literally steamrollered by Facebook in popularity and functionality, and certainly better than its disastrous Wave. The idea, one supposes, was to create a product that would make a mash of its prime competitors Facebook and Twitter and wipe them out. Will Google + do that?
Google + is still in its snooty, exclusive, I-will-call-you-don’t-call-me phase, but let us remember that was Mark Zuckerberg’s strategy initially as well. Facebook was the privy of exclusive Ivy League schools in the U.S. and the U.K. until the blitz happened. So, invitations are still scarce to come by, not all those in the Plus can extend invitations to friends who are still nonplussed. However, for sure, there are many more being added to my circles every night, nearly thrice the number than I started off with.
But when you are in, you may not notice this; it automatically signs you in on a secure (https) server, significant if you consider the recent controversies over Facebook taking liberties with users’ privacy. So far, so good.
Even if you missed that, there is no way you cannot pause at the nearly spartan, neat, user interface. As yet uncluttered in comparison to FB, and only four silos (Home, Photos, Profile, Circles) to click on. Yeah, no games, and thankfully, no Farmville! On the face of it, it is simple; yet, it takes some initially to figure out the Google +. The ‘Stream’ is the equivalent of FB’s scroll newsfeed, and there are similar options — to share, edit, host photos and videos, and delete them. You can also ‘mute’ those annoying conversations on your Stream. Phew! There is also the ‘Sparks’ component, which according to Plus, “…looks for videos and articles that it thinks you’ll like, so that when you’re free, there’s always something to watch, read and share.” Your grandpa will approve, it adds, but who is looking for Grandpa’s approval rating on social media?
What is utterly out of the box for social media is the ‘Circle’ concept. Literally, you can create your own social spheres, including friends, acquaintances, colleagues and contacts in different circles that are more than faintly reminiscent of school-level Set Theory. You can choose who you want to share specific information with, hiving off various groups that may be in conflict with each other: a boss versus someone to whom you are bitching about him.
A thumb tack aids you to transfer multiple persons on to the circles; and every circle you delete merrily jigs away out of the screen. Will subsets of intersecting Venn diagrams soon come to play, where diagrammatic impressions mapping friends who belong to more than one circle? It certainly will jazz Plus up. ‘Hangout’ is Google’s version of ‘teleportation,’ a.k.a. ‘video chat’ and is certainly cool thus far.
Mobile Google Plus is adapted finely for Apple’s iOS and is functional on the Android platform (tried on HTC phones), but does not deign to work on the Symbian platform (tried on two of Nokia’s E-series). Snooty again? Because even as the migration to Android or iOS gathers steam, there are still millions of users on Symbian, and everyone knows the link between Twitter’s phenomenal growth and the facility of mobile phones.
Even if you are in, there is the fact that Plus is about a week old.