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What Google+ Does that Twitter and Facebook Doesn’t


I said I wasn’t going to jump into the buzz machine to talk about Google+, but I think the broadcast model used here is pretty interesting.

I made a comment in response to someone wondering “How do I post something on your wall”. This is the Facebook paradigm which takes a graffiti approach to sharing information publicly. While you can “tag” people within your status updates (which is a relatively recent addition for Facebook) to draw their attention to your thoughts, you could also go to their wall and share your thoughts with them and everyone else who happens by (if they’ve set the permissions to allow this).

In contrast, G+ gives you a way of organizing individuals by the “circle” you both are socially connected within. These organizations are your own and you use these circles like a control access list to direct your thoughts toward the individuals contained within them. So my initial response to them was they were attempting to replace “Broadcast” with “Subscribe”. But I had it completely wrong. It seems to be a bit of both.

First, relationships in G+ are asynchronous. Person A need not “circle” someone in Person B. Take Mark Zuckerberg’s profile… at the time of writing this, he has ~22 people in his circles, meanwhile, 2000+ have Mark in theirs. This means that Mark can listen to the people he wants, organizing them the way he wants, broadcasting to them the way he wants. This takes a bit of what Twitter has (and ultimately Buzz had) trouble with and improves the quality of conversation by improving where the publisher’s conversation is directed.

A by-product of its simplicity, Twitter forces you to push your thoughts to everyone or a single person. There was no easy way to overlap and direct to specific groups unless there was agreement about which hashtag everyone would be listening. Facebook improves this with more control but using their interface is much less intuitive and difficult to use. I’d bet hardly anyone ever looked at their “Custom” privacy dialog box.

At the same time, G+ values your space and doesn’t allow others to directly affect your public space without your explicit permission. Content which is directed at you may be filtered into a separate feed which is apart from your other feeds. Not only are you given control over how your content is sent, but it is received with better control as well. Anyone who’s used Facebook’s privacy controls has an idea of what I’m talking about. At least Twitter gives you a good idea of what you’re committing to when broadcasting content over their lines.

This is still only a few days old, but it has the promise of getting quite a few things right despite Google’s previous attempts at social. The prospect of social on top of Google’s existing product set is very exciting as the possibilities are immense.