The Google+ Project

Like many of you today, I was intrigued by the announcement of Google Plus which was touted in the New York Times today (online but tomorrow in print) as “Google Introduces Facebook Competitor, Emphasizing Privacy”. The headline writer wasn’t exactly in tune with the reporter who doesn’t talk about privacy as much as sharing among smaller groups and a design that helps prevent over-sharing. Add to that a strong focus on mobile — one place where Facebook is very weak (Facebook just blew up again on my iPhone a few seconds before I wrote this).

True there is privacy baked into the design. A visit to the mobile Help for Plus.Google.com shows a long section on privacy including a mostly readable Google+ Privacy policy.

So yes there is a serious concern about privacy at two levels. You can manage privacy more readily — in part because of Circles and the other design features that encourage smaller groups and so prevent over-sharing. And the Google+ Policy, which describes your relationship to Google and to third parties, picks up on many of the aspects of privacy policies that Facebook got wrong over and over getting the policy mostly right.

One of the problems about writing about Google+ is that you can’t use it — yet. Google+ is getting a GMail-style rollout using the now famous Google snowball invite system. You have to know someone who is already using Google+ to get an invite, then you will get invites to issue to others.

Right now, when you go to Plus.Google.com you’ll most likely get this:

Google+ is in limited Field Trial
Right now, we’re testing with a small number of people, but it won’t be long before the Google+ project is ready for everyone. Leave us your email address and we’ll make sure you’re the first to know when we’re ready to invite more people.
Already invited? We’ve temporarily exceeded our capacity. Please try again soon.

So you might not be able to try out Google+ itself, you can use the snazzy demo that steps you through the five advertised features:

Circles - easily managed small groups done with groovy drag and drop interface

Hang-outs – small group live video interactions (almost FaceTime or better)

Photo Upload/Sharing – Instant upload to a private folder which can be sorted and shared later

Sparks – search + alerts aimed at purchasing stuff

Huddle – simple group texting environment that’s managed by Circles

One thing I noticed right away; there is #noemail integration in Google+ so far.

Fred Stutzman notes on Twitter that “Circles is that Google learned from Goffman”. A nod to Irving Goffman and his studies including Presentation of Self in Everyday Life..

Jacob Kramer-Duffield has a nice quick take on Google+ (with a reference to entries on this blog about #noemail and small talk).

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