A painting of me


   5 July 2011, early morning

I was listening to Marco Arment’s show on 5by5 yesterday. Normally it is pretty on point, but yesterdays show seemed so wrong about Google+ I thought I’d say a few words. (A few of the Apple tech blogs that I read seems to be hating on Google+, seemingly because it’s from Google or because they hate social networks. This 5by5 show just stands out in my mind since I spent so much time listening to the damn show.)

To start off, Marco hadn’t even used Google+ when the show was recorded. Many of the tech blogs I read are also critical of the service despite not being invited to use it. Criticizing something you haven’t used before is silly. I would think that goes without saying.

Marco felt that Google had nothing to offer beyond what Facebook currently offers, all the while lacking the user base Facebook currently has. He talks about how if he could log in to Google+, he’d expect to see 4 geek friends, each talking about the testing out the site, and that’s about it. Meanwhile, even his Grandmother is on Facebook. My mom is on Facebook. That’s some serious market penetration. That said, she wasn’t on the site anywhere close to day one. Facebook at launch was full of Ivy League kids, and it expanded from there. Like today, when it launched there was a big well established player with a huge user base. People move from network to network when there are compelling reasons to move. I used to use ICQ, then switched to MSN, and am now settled on Google Talk. Each switch happened organically. All it really takes is a couple people who you have to talk and their communication medium of choice will usually win out. The question is whether Google+ will snag that set of key people. I would add that these sorts of social networks don’t have to be a zero-sum game. If the user base for Google+ never moves beyond a bunch of nerdy boys and girls that isn’t the worse thing ever. I suspect for many people, a social network their mom isn’t on is actually a compelling feature.

It also seems clear to me what Google is trying to do to differentiate itself from Facebook. Without looking at their crazy demo site, here are three things that come to my mind after using the site briefly and reading some blog posts from Google.

  1. Google is quite up front about how it plans to share what you post to the site. I commented upon logging in for the first time that all the requests to use this and that information were creeping me out, but they were really doing nothing different from Facebook, they were just not being secret about any of it. Google+ also has a very clear model for how you group your friends and family, and share information with them. Facebook’s privacy controls are inscrutable. Worse, they seem to be obfuscated on purpose.
  2. Google makes it very easy to export your data out of Google+. (It plans to make it easy to export data out of all of its services.) Facebook is a black hole for your stuff.
  3. Google makes it very easy to delete your account, and everything associated with it. You don’t have to find a page on WikiHow explaining what you need to do to delete your account. You don’t have to understand what deactivating your account means. You don’t have to wonder whether your account is actually gone or not. This is actually the one thing I like most about the service.

I don’t think I’ll use Google+ any more than I did Facebook. I don’t think Google is any less creepy than Facebook. Still, I can see that Google+ is a well thought out and well executed product, especially for something that just launched. I think it has a good chance of doing well. (Assuming they let other people use the site, anyway.)



  1. All good points. I would also say that maybe due to the ‘nerdy’ nature of the early adopters, it seems like G+ is going to be more conducive to sharing information and links (like Twitter) than Facebook, which seems like it’s always been about narcissistic navelgazing rather than using your social network to actually advance…something. I know that when people first started using Twitter, it got a lot of flak for being useful only for talking about your lunch, but I find Facebook a LOT more inane than Twitter, and so far G+ seems to hit the sweet spot between the two.

    Plus, its extensive and public ways of organizing how you share information is excellent. I have professors on my Facebook, and maybe I don’t want them to see my liberal pinko blog posts, yeah?

  2. No offense to him, but Marco’s show is my least favourite show on 5by5. Seems like he has lots of opinions on stuff he doesn’t know much about. (Also, there’s a lot about programming, which I don’t understand.) Siracusa’s show I love, and of course The Talk Show.

    Google+ sounds cool but I don’t have an invite (hint, hint). The lack of initial users shouldn’t be a big deal considering all the search, gmail and youtube users google can blast once they feel it’s out of closed beta. I think this was instrumental in the success of Chrome (the browser), for instance.

  3. I’ve been trying to give them all a try. I think this is the third show by Marco i’ve listened too. It’s better than the other ones i’ve tried listening to, in that there isn’t too much rambling ass rambling. I think Siracusa’s show is the best. I haven’t listened to the Talk Show in ages, mostly because it was too random. I keep listening to the Merlin Mann show, even though it’s got to be the least productive show about productivity.

  4. I guess I don’t mind the rambling if it’s on topics of interest to me, a category that doesn’t include Bond films, so I tend to skip the last 45 minutes. Yes I tend to consume anything Merlin Mann does, but I have trouble listening to that show. That’s got to be the most ramblingest show ever.

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