Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thoughts on Google+

I got invited to become a member of the new Google+ social network site a while back. Google+ is basically in beta and not open to the public until later. Google+ is designed to compete with social networking giant Facebook. Ironically, I was one of the original beta users for Facebook as well, so I've been involved with social networking sites for quite some time.

Google+ has created a huge amount of buzz in the internet world. It was suppose to compete with or even signal the doom of Facebook. Facebook has a lot of detractors, though few people who use it refuse to dump it entirely because there are so many people one can keep up with only through Facebook. I can contact virtually all the people I met when I was living in England only through Facebook.

The problem with Facebook is threefold. One is that the owners unilaterally make changes to the program without consulting users. This comes in the form of unwanted updates and general ongoing tinkering that is really more of an annoyance than a true upgrade. You usually don't get a say in whether you want to use the upgrade or tinkering, you just have to go along with it or leave Facebook. People don't like the bullying aspect of the Facebook overlords.

Security is another ongoing problem. People get all up in arms about all sorts of data from a profile being scanned and used for all sorts of commercial and advertising profit. Identity theft and all sorts of things occur, but such is the inherent nature of social media. If you post photos of your weekend bender and everyone knows it (including potential employers down the road), I maintain it is mostly your own fault. Facebook is really like the old party line phone system where anyone can listen in on your business. This comes as a great surprise to people who expect privacy from something social by nature and function.

The other major problem with Facebook is the computer code that runs it. There was no master plan as to how it would evolve when it started. It started as a glorified online bulletin board and eventually morphed into a game playing, gossipy oracle of all social knowledge. In other words, it morphed into the cosmic black hole of time wasting. As such, there is really no way for Facebook to clean up its operative computer program without a massive shutting down of everything and relaunch, which is be massively unpopular and financially detrimental.  

As such, Google+ was launched in the hopes of capitalizing on Facebook disgruntlement. I've toyed around with Google+ for a week or so now, and I don't quite see the allure of it. It appears to be very basic script. No games or game invites are allowed, at least at present. It is easier to group people into 'circles' to control who sees what in terms of what you post, although Facebook allows you, if you are savvy enough to figure out how, to already do this with the 'Friends lists.'

Google+ seems to be making a good pitch to the "we need more security" crowd, but I am not sold on that personally. While it might be more secure in some ways, I have found it to be actually less secure in others. Google+ is completely integrated into all the other Google programs like gmail, calendar, and maps. So you can't really use anything in the Google world without at least all the other Google subprograms knowing about it. Google has already been busted for scanning Gmail e-mail accounts so as to send targeted advertisements based on the texts of sent e-mails. Googlemaps shows detailed satellite information about houses and neighbors for anyone to see. Google has also been in battles over academic property issues by trying to digitize every book ever written, even if the copyright holder objects.

So, to those who think this Google+ is somehow more secure, I would simply ask how you come by that conclusion. Do you trust this massive internet Empire with your social media information? I don't. But then I don't trust Facebook either.  In fact, I don't even use my last name for my Facebook profile name. At least Facebook is a separate entity and program from the Google Empire hoard of information. It smacks to much of Orwell's 1984 world to me.

That and you can't play Farmville.

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