I finally got access to Google+. After Facebook announced and launched Skype videochat, Google unlocked Google+ overnight, to presumably steal a little bit of the spotlight back. Once I got in, my first major task was to contend with Circles, the feature that groups people by categories. Who goes where? I decided to get rid of the “acquaintances” circle and start off with friends, family, and people I follow. I uploaded a few photos just so people can have something to see and that was about it. I’ve ordered a headset so I can use the group videochat function called Hangouts, which means I haven’t tried it yet. People seem to like it. Anyway, I did a lot of reading and one idea stood out: Google+ is where you can restart your social network. Alexis Madrigal at the Atlantic wrote an interesting piece and a follow-up about how he was using his years of experience with sites like Facebook and Twitter to rethink how he wants to approach Google+:

Google+ has provided the technology and fresh start, but I’m bringing improved technique to my social networking. I’ve learned and changed and want different things from my social networks than I did two or ten years ago.
Since most people still don’t have access to Google+, which has reportedly been closed again to new users, I’ll have time to sort things out. Having now read a fair amount of comparisons between Google+ and Facebook, I realize I have tools on Facebook that may be handy for me. I plan on using the Lists and Groups features to organize my friends so that I’ll be better able to see the best of what my friends have to share.

I dug up articles and introductory videos for some of Google’s failed social launches: Wave and Buzz. Wave in particular seemed to have a lot of promise, but it didn’t catch on. I actually forgot about it until people started to joke that Google+ was the next Google Wave. The two are very different. Where Wave was complicated with a lot of new concepts to learn (like what is a wave?), Google+ plus is very simple. It’s stuff we know, all in one place, and without the clutter. And you have access to all the other stuff in Googleworld. Google+ is just the beginning.

Wired had a great insider article about what Google is thinking. It is betting the company (Emerald Sea was the project’s code name):

As early as last August, I asked Gundotra whether he felt Emerald Sea was a bet-the-company project.

“I think so,” he replied. “I don’t know how you can look at it any other way.”

Google still wants to organize the world’s information. But this time, it’s personal.

Is it better than Facebook? It can be, but that’s up to you.

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