Recent posts having been so long, I'll try to make this terse:
- I have used Google+ for most of the past week; it's being rolled out gradually to see how the system scales, much as Gmail was originally. When you've got it, among the things you'll see is a little display like the one at right, letting you choose to stream info from various groups of people, or "Circles," you've set up.
- My feelings are similar to those Dan Gillmor spelled out in the Guardian: the system is still beta-ish but promising in many ways.
- One of the immediate appeals is how quick, ergonomically easy, and aesthetically nice it is to set up "circles" that match the natural patterns of your real life. One for immediate family, one for "friends you actually know," another for "professional acquaintances who are sort of friends," etc. Or by interest. In my case: airplane people, beer people, China people, tech people, Atlantic people, NPR people, etc. This is technically possible with Facebook "lists" but more of a chore. And, just like in life, one person can be in more than one "circle."
- The other immediate appeal is that the privacy bias seems set in your favor, rather than constantly playing hide-the-ball with you, as Facebook does. The reason I hate and mistrust Facebook is its constant record of changing the privacy terms, not saying it's done so until it's caught, and always setting the default in the least private and most advertiser-exploitable way. (Yes, I realize I do not exemplify FB's ideal demographic.) Privacy settings here are much simpler and by default are generally private.
- Whether this will catch on after the faddish new-thing stage, and in what ways it will prove actually useful, who knows. I've already seen a lot of promise in being able to switch easily from, say, a stream of China info to one about airplanes or beer, rather than an undifferentiated flow; and a surprising number of people are already on the system. But this is still the tinkering phase. More later.
STANDARD DISCLOSURE: I have many friends at Google, and as of recently a close relative is working there, though not on this project. I have some friends at Facebook too. They just don't set its privacy policies.
ALSO: I mentioned last week that Chinese officials had greeted Google+'s debut by immediately firewalling it. Brian Glucroft, former guest blogger here and current resident of China, has detailed updates on the situation at his site.