BEIJING Last month while home for Christmas I attended a ninetieth birthday party for my Grandma with family and friends. Like others returning from China I went through that process of trying to explain the unexplainable fascination with China. Yet more than once I sensed a certain fumbling for questions from my interlocutors, it was them for a change struggling to small talk, not me.
A new war has emerged on the Internet. Its battleground is our increasingly precious and oft-used social network platforms. And the weapon used on either side is your identity. Welcome to the Nym Wars.
So with all the buzz (pun intended) being spewed surrounding the launch of Google+, I thought it would be the perfect time to assess what this all means for our social networking existence.
As a social media philanderer I cavort with most of the popular mediums and forums. I threw up my first tweet three years before the Arab Spring, and months before the Mumbai bombings; way before any of my friends even knew what a retweet was. This fact doesn't make me cooler, doesn't make me better, and certainly doesn't make me any more clairvoyant when it comes to predicting the cultural explosion of these platforms, I'm just making a point: the kid is all about early adoption (I got the PATH and Quora accounts to prove it).
In the commercial above, I've posted a vid highlighting how great Google+ is because it's not based on loose intimacy and unfettered showboat posting like Facebook, but instead revolves around the idea that grouping our relationships into "circles" can bring us all closer (cause, hey, who wants to be a square?).
On one column we can drag and drop our besties, on the other we can separate our annoying co-workers, and while we're at it probably marginalize the family members we would rather disown. By the looks of the ad, it sounds like good clean fun, and a sheer splendid way to spend a Saturday night.
Jokes aside, classification features, however, have been around for quite a while, or at least are already integrated into the systems of FB and Twitter. I myself have taken full advantage of these options, simply because it resolves the clutter that can often amass within news feeds and regulates the shameless rambling within my network. The real truth though is that most users, baby boomers and the cool kids of the Net Generation especially, could care less about groupings. Attribute it to indolence or pure apathy, but for the mainstream and laymen account holder, the task of grouping their acquaintances is a chore they either don't care to exercise or do not even know exists.
The problem with Google+ is that it's whole platform is built entirely on this feature. It's placing a bet that the generic user will somehow suddenly embrace a characteristic they've historically neglected and barely cared to notice buried in the frozen food section of FB prefs.
Sure, "+" might be a fun ride in the beginning, but everybody knows once the gimmicks end and the bandwagon runs out of free food, you do a "Cheers" and go where everybody knows your name. FB either gobbles you up or they take what you do best and make it part of their own. The proof is in the pudding (i.e. "Places" from Foursquare and "Newsfeed" from Twitter).
For now, I'll give "+" a punchers chance, cause if anyone can shock the world, it's gotta be Google. However, I tend to concede that this fight unfortunately is going to end more like Ali/Holmes than Clay/Liston.