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BLOG: Elgan: Declare independence... from Facebook!

Mike Elgan | July 2, 2011
The revolution is here: How Google+ will free us from the tyranny of King Mark.

Google+ is dubbed a "project" by the search giant, rather than a product. And it's in the beta stage, available by invitation only. When Google opened up invitations this week, the service grew so fast that they had to shut off invitations. Google will soon allow invitations again. Expect to join before July is over.

I think Google+ will succeed because two very influential groups will love it. Both tech fans (people like you and me) and, more importantly, teenagers will prefer Google+ to Facebook. These two groups will like it for the same reason: Social Circles.

Google+ is organized around the truth that people don't have one "social network," but several -- high school friends, extended family, professional colleagues. In real life, these social networks rarely intersect.

Google+ enables you -- forces you, really -- to lump friends into smaller groups, which Google calls Social Circles.

We geeks will be able to create a Social Circle for each of our interests. You can have separate Social Circles for talking about the iPad, Privacy, movies, food -- whatever you're into. You won't bore people who don't care. And you can pack each Circle with brilliant people from all over the world.

Right now, teens and twentysomethings hate Facebook's everybody's-seeing-everything approach to social networking. Young people will love separating friends from family.

In fact, this feature is so youth-friendly that the only way Facebook can prevent an exodus is to essentially copy it.

Social Circles is how you control the fire hose of updates you might get from everyone you know. On Facebook, the editing of messages is secret, hidden and unknowable. On Google+, it's clear who's getting what. And the editing is controlled by you, not by invisible software governed by some software programmer's assumptions about what constitutes a meaningful relationship.

Google+ has another killer feature: Group video chat. Anyone can just open a "Hangout." Your followers are notified, and as many as 10 people can join. You can even launch a YouTube video for all to see at the same time, then mute the audio to comment.


Freedom of speech

A related concept is the "Huddle," which is a group chat or text, similar to Hangouts. While Hangouts is currently something of a cool novelty, designed to start "spontaneous" conversations among anyone who feels like jumping in, Huddles enable you to specifically choose who's in the conversation. You launch it from your phone, and it's really just an easy way to have group texting.

Freedom of the press


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