Google+: So Far, So Good

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."

google-plus.png- 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.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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