Having secured an invite, I’ve been using Google+ for the last three days. So far, I’m not impressed. Google+ is a lot like the parties that I attended as a teenager: overhyped and suffering from a shortage of guests.
All I can do is cast a forlorn glance across the road to the Facebook party. That, on the other hand, is a lot like the parties you used to see on Skins: full of people doing a variety of crazy and fun things. Meanwhile, Google+ had just asked if we all want to play Charades, and if we’d mind keeping the noise down as Google+’s Dad is upstairs trying to sleep.
Perhaps I’m being unfair on Google+. But there seem to be only two reasons why this pretender to Facebook hasn’t been dismissed outright:
- It’s by Google.
- It’s not Facebook.
Here’s a rundown of the new features that I’ve noticed:
Can’t really comment on this, as I haven’t any friends online that want to do a video chat. Cnet have written a very in-depth analysis, which I’ll summarise: Facebook’s video chat is simpler, but Google+’s is more feature packed.
Though I’m reluctant to do video chats at the best of times. It seems that laptop webcams have been intentionally positioned to make everyone look at least four times chinnier than they do in reality.
Now that I’m signed up to Google+, I can see notifications pop up in the right hand corner when I’m just doing a Google search. In a way this is good, given that I don’t actually have to log on to Google+ to see that nobody has messaged me.
However, given my current lack of discipline, a further combination of Google and social networking (two of the biggest time sinks known to man) can only result in more wasted time. Now, I’m able to click ‘like’– or ‘+1′, as Google call it– on any webpage on that there Google.
If there’s a global downturn in five years due to decreased productivity, it will be down to this.
Ridiculously in-depth photo information
Ever look at a photo on Facebook and say ‘Gee Whiz! I do like this photo. I wish I could see the date that it was taken and a shitload of graphs!’?
Well, Google thought you had.
My friend uploaded a creepy photo of a particular mouse you may be familiar with:
Click ‘Actions’ and then ‘Photo Details’, and watch all that lovely superflous information fill your screen:
There is very little on Google+ which hasn’t been seen before, but one feature that’s receiving a lot of attention is called Circles. Now, you can assign your contacts into different circles and choose what to share with them. Want to comment on your manager’s lax personal hygiene? Now you can just share that with your friends, and avoid the awkward work tribunal.
You could go one further and live a double life. For instance: want some friends to think you’re a bleeding heart liberal, but want others to think you’re as blue as they come? You could set up Left Wing and Right Wing circles, sharing relevant stories and opinions at each. Now, with a bit of work and creativity, you can be liked by people of any political persuasion. Just like Nick Clegg wanted to be. Hooray!
But for all its bells and whistles, the Circles feature isn’t that original. In fact, it was pinched from a little known social network in development called Diaspora. Their main selling point was Aspects, where you could assign different contacts to different groups, and choose what to share with each. Sound familiar?
So, Google+ may have killed the fledgling Diaspora before it was even able to be launched. They’ve taken the feature that was garnering the most attention, and disregarded the one that made me hopeful.
A disregard for privacy
Here is part of Diaspora’s mission statement:
You own your pictures, and you shouldn’t have to give that up just to share them. You maintain ownership of everything you share on Diaspora, giving you full control over how it’s distributed.
The idea of you owning and controlling the data that you put on social networks might not sound like much, but it’s pretty revolutionary. That’s why I was quite heartened to see a ‘Data Liberation’ tab in the Google+ settings. I was amazed. Google are giving me power over my own data? Holy smokes!
Alas, it wasn’t to be. For Google, data liberation simply means that they will let you download a copy of the data they store:
I can only imagine Google would have a similar approach to liberating Prisoner of War camps: instead of releasing the prisoners, Google would clone each and every one of them. That way, copies of the prisoners can be running free, out in the open, but Google still have the originals under lock and key. Nice one.
Google, just like Facebook, profits from the monetisation of data. So you can bet that they’re not going to delete your data without a fight.
There was a time when Facebook wanted to claim unlimited ownership of all information submitted, even if you deleted your account. An outcry soon put paid to that. Now, Facebook promise to delete your data after 90 days, but only if it hasn’t been shared with others. That stuff remains, but it is no longer tied to your name. I don’t particularly like the idea that something I drunkenly posted on somebody else’s wall will remain on the internet as a permanent monument to my idiocy, but it seems a lot better than Google’s approach.
When you use Google services, we make good faith efforts to provide you with access to your personal information and either to correct this data if it is inaccurate or to delete such data at your request if it is not otherwise required to be retained by law or for legitimate business purposes. We ask individual users to identify themselves and the information requested to be accessed, corrected or removed before processing such requests, and we may decline to process requests that are unreasonably repetitive or systematic, require disproportionate technical effort, jeopardize the privacy of others, or would be extremely impractical (for instance, requests concerning information residing on backup tapes), or for which access is not otherwise required. In any case where we provide information access and correction, we perform this service free of charge, except if doing so would require a disproportionate effort. Because of the way we maintain certain services, after you delete your information, residual copies may take a period of time before they are deleted from our active servers and may remain in our backup systems.
So. In a nutshell: Google will delete your data, but you must to ask reeeally nicely. Then, they have to decide whether it’s too much effort and whether they should charge you for the privilege. Much more effort than pressing the ‘delete my account’ button on Facebook. Seems more what you’d expect when you ask a reluctant teenager to tidy their room, as opposed to a request made to one of the world’s largest companies in a privacy-conscious age.
DELETE YOUR DATA? THAT IS SOOO UNFAIR! I’M OFF TO LISTEN TO DUBSTEP AND HAVE A WANK INSTEAD.
As previous blogs will show, I’m no big fan of Facebook. But it seems that in our determination to rid ourselves of this social networking Goliath, a lot of people are jumping with both feet. As of the moment, Google+ has few unique features, and many features are less intuitive than they are on Zuckerberg’s beast.
Yet people are singing Google+’s praises from the rooftops. I’m not sure why. Perhaps I’m missing something. Or, quite possibly, people are either applauding it so enthusiastically it because it’s not Facebook, or they want to appear to be cutting-edge social media gurus jumping on the Next Big Thing before everyone else.
All I’m saying is: unless Google change their attitudes to privacy or they considerably improve Google+’s features, we’re better sticking to the devil we know.