An Experiment in Scotch

"I write to discover what I believe." Michael Lopp on Twitter

Google+ Is What I Want Facebook To Be

While it’s still very early in the process for Google+, already I’m see­ing things they are doing that I wish Face­book did. The pri­mary dif­fer­ence for me is the Cir­cles com­po­nent of Google+. From the description:

Google+ Cir­cles helps you orga­nize every­one accord­ing to your real-life social connections–say, ‘fam­ily,’ ‘work friends,’ ‘music bud­dies,’ and ‘alumni’. Then, you can share rel­e­vant con­tent with the right peo­ple, and fol­low con­tent posted by peo­ple you find interesting.

Part of the prob­lem I have with Face­book is how it treats all my “friends” as the same. I’m either friends with you or I’m not accord­ing to Face­book and frankly, that’s not a very sub­tle dis­tinc­tion when it comes to how I want to inter­act with peo­ple online. This causes me to be very cau­tious with accept­ing requests on Face­book. Many times, I either have to choose to ignore some­one I’m not that inter­ested in or accept their request and then qui­etly click the X but­ton when it turns out I’m just not that inter­ested in what they have to say. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t like to accept all requests. I’d just like to have some con­trol over what I read and share beyond the con­cept of “Every­one is my friend” which they clearly aren’t.

Google+ fixes this with Cir­cles, the con­cept being that your social cir­cle is actu­ally made up of lots of lit­tle cir­cles, some of which over­lap, super­sede or ignore com­pletely other cir­cles. This is a more accu­rate por­trayal of what goes on in the real world. This may of course be a solu­tion dreamed up by engi­neer­ing nerds and intro­verts look­ing for a prob­lem to solve. I know that many of the peo­ple I’ve run into on Face­book have so many friends, they can’t pos­si­bly use FB in any mean­ing­ful way to keep up with peo­ple unless they spend entirely too much time there. Wait, nevermind.

Still, when some­one has 1000 friends on Face­book, it’s off putting in a vari­ety of ways to me. For one, chances are they use Face­book as more of a giant online Rolodex, a place where any­one and every­one they have ever encoun­tered can be grouped in one place for easy track­ing. That’s fine except that in order for me to be in your Rolodex, you have to be in mine as well unless I specif­i­cally do some­thing to pre­tend like you aren’t there. Not par­tic­u­larly opti­mal. Not to men­tion, if you have 1000 friends on Face­book, the like­li­hood that you actu­ally pay atten­tion in any mean­ing­ful way to what I put on Face­book is rapidly approach­ing zero and since this is all about me, why would I want that?

With Google+ Cir­cles, a lot of those issues van­ish. If I accept a request from some­one with 1000 friends, I can put them in my “Extro­verts are insane” Cir­cle, choose to share almost noth­ing with them and view almost noth­ing and be done with it. I’m in their Rolodex, they are in mine, but that’s the limit of it and no one has to get their feel­ings hurt. They don’t have to lis­ten to me say how much Face­book sucks (not that they were pay­ing any atten­tion any­way) and I don’t have to lis­ten to what­ever it is they say on FB. Everyone’s a winner.

The abil­ity to put peo­ple in loosely orga­nized groups is a key com­po­nent of evo­lu­tion­ary biol­ogy. It’s impor­tant that we are able to know who we can count on, who to share infor­ma­tion about drunken orgies with, etc. The evo­lu­tion of social media from the begin­nings in AOL chat rooms to Google+ Cir­cles is an evo­lu­tion towards bet­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tion online of the rela­tion­ships we actu­ally have in daily life. I don’t know what the long term chances are for this lat­est project of Google’s but I per­son­ally am root­ing for their success.


  1. Play­ing devil’s advo­cate, to a large degree you can do that with FB. You can cre­ate friend groups. I have groups for fam­ily, close friends, friends, and cowork­ers, each with cus­tomized per­mis­sions into what they can see and what they can’t. Though I am look­ing for­ward to see­ing how well Google+ is adopted by the masses, I have con­cerns as to if peo­ple will leave FB and pick up with G+. There was a recent arti­cle that spoke about how FB is the num­ber one most com­plained about, in com­par­i­son to other things peo­ple com­plain about, such as util­i­ties, other ser­vices, etc., and there have been active meme­ber­ship num­ber drop­ping rapidly from their peak. So the ques­tion will become, are peo­ple ready for another social man­age­ment solu­tion or is that phase of the game used up…

  2. Scotch Drinker

    July 4, 2011 at 9:16 am

    I was pretty sure you could but with G+, it seems to be a fea­ture front and cen­ter. I don’t think FB is built to fea­ture that kind of ability.

    That said, I don’t see FB going any­where. As XKCD said the other day, my par­ents are never going to give up FB. Which is fine, I’d just like to have another player in the social media marketplace.

  3. Agreed, I am look­ing for­ward to Google+ myself. I am hop­ing it to be a much bet­ter plat­form than FB. To me FB seems to be cen­tered more around friends, and no pri­vacy. The groups I men­tioned seem to come about as an afer-thought and it is a rather clunky inter­face to get it the way you would like to have it setup. Then any­time they change some­thing, you have to rush in there and reset all your cus­tom per­mis­sions for your groups back which is unbe­liev­ably annoy­ing. It is one of the rea­sons I have not been a big face­book fan. Now, despite all the trash talk about Google and its ser­vices, I am a fan of their ser­vices. Obvi­ously FB is a lit­tle affraid of Google and what they may even­tu­ally offer, or they wouldn’t have been run­ning a trash talk mar­ket­ing cam­paign against Google.

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