Social Leaps

Google Plus is here and many are vying to see what new features it brings to the social networking stable. The primary focus of the Google Plus project does seem to be creating groups and connecting more to your groups than facilitating one-on-one conversations. At the core of the concept is creating ‘circles’ of people – whether they are your friends, family or acquaintances. Which is basically classifying your friends into categories (while not letting them know where you boxed them into). A user can then track interactions and activities happening within these circles.

Some would say that this is not radically different from Facebook. It is true that you could create lists and groups in Facebook to try to do the same thing that Google Plus is doing. The difference however is the key focus. Facebook is more about self-expression mixed with a fine blend of voyeurism about what’s happening on your friend’s wall. While Google Plus does have the ingredients to go down this path, its key focus seems to be on multicasting what you have to say to your different groups and tracking different interest groups. Thus when you propagate information you share it specifically with interest groups and not the buck shot approach of Facebook. At the same time Google integrates its other offerings such as Picasa albums and your Google address book very nicely into the environment.

The question of the hour and the place that social networking should be heading is how does the platform actually encourage you to grow your social network. Facebook is about the friends you have or had. Making new friends in Facebook has never been its focus. There are other sites like iTalki which is social networking for a specific cause – learning a language. This site encourages people to form new bonds with friends across the world in a cross-cultural exchange beneficial to both parties. It is in this space that social networking needs to take the next step. Getting your friends to introduce you to their friends and building your circle of influence. I am eager to see which networking site bags this first and if one such platform already exists. On the other hand, Google Plus means one more platform in the fray and it is unlikely that a person will indulge in serious networking over more than one or two networking sites. So who is going to lose in popularity and will Google Plus go the Orkut way, only time will tell.