Nobody Knows What Google+ Is Yet. And That’s Awesome.

by on Jul.28, 2011, under general

This article about the implications of Google+ came across my desk today. It’s a quick post discussing the potential implications of Google+ for higher ed recruitment – whether or not you could (or should) Hangout with prospective students, etc.

It’s a good article, but it’s also premature.

The thing about Google+ is it isn’t a thing yet. By that intentionally inarticulate statement I mean we don’t yet know what the norms and expectations of Google+ are.

Norms and expectations of sites are always changing. What Facebook was in 2006 is very different (for better or for worse) than what it is in 2011. And it’s always a moving target.

But at least with Facebook, if you have the faintest idea of what you are talking about (which admittedly many don’t) you can only be so wrong. You can only be so far ahead or behind of a known target.

Not so with Google+.

You might look at Google+ and say “well, it’s just like Facebook, except that it’s got a slightly different privacy architecture, and it’s also just like Twitter, except the asymmetrical following has a different social substrate, and it’s just like Skype, so none of this is really new, they’re just all in the same place now.”

This argument is alluring. It’s also wrong. When all of these admitted analogues are in the same space it’s an entirely different dynamic. A jewelry store, a Burger King, and a Hot Topic are all distinct social spaces. Together, they’re a mall. And the sociology of a mall is not the sum of the sociologies of its stores. It’s something else entirely.

The same argument was made about Facebook in its early days (oh, it’s just photos + messageboards + email). It was wrong then. And it’s wrong now about Google+ – and it’s wrong exponentially. Facebook was a service built atop a combination of popular web standards. And Google+ is a combination of those services.

Google+ may yet flop. But I don’t think it matters if it does. It’s the first well-designed combination of all of these services. Whether or not it “kills Facebook”, it’s worthy of study and interesting on its own. I can’t remember the last time I was this excited about a change in the social media field. It’s going to be incredible to watch.

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