Obviously, social networking is a pretty big deal these days. Facebook has well over half a billion users; Twitter is blowing up all over the place. Google has been expanding in a lot of directions in recent years, moving way beyond search and into news, email, video, cloud storage, translation, and even into television set top boxes. Now they're making another play into social.
I say "another" play because Google has tried to make people more connected in the past and it hasn't gone that well. Google Wave was supposed to be the evolved form of e-mail but no one really understood it. Google Buzz was supposed to be a way to know what your friends were up to but there were some pretty severe privacy bungles. Now comes Google+, which is not just a new product but a whole series of them. Here's how Google describes three of them:
You share different things with different people. But sharing the right stuff with the right people shouldn't be a hassle. Circles makes it easy to put your friends from Saturday night in one circle, your parents in another, and your boss in a circle by himself, just like real life.
Remember when your Grandpa used to cut articles out of the paper and send them to you? That was nice. That's kind of what Sparks does: looks for videos and articles it thinks you'll like, so when you're free, there's always something to watch, read, and share. Grandpa would approve.
Bumping into friends while you're out and about is one of the best parts of going out and about. With Hangouts, the unplanned meet-up comes to the web for the first time. Let buddies know you're hanging out and see who drops by for a face-to-face-to-face chat. Until we perfect teleportation, it's the next best thing.
Got that? Circles is a grouping service, Sparks makes pages for you based on interests, Hangouts is a group videoconferencing service.
Read the whole set here.
We talk to Ben Parr, editor-at-large for the social media news site Mashable.com for a rundown of what Google is offering and how it differs from Facebook.
We also check in with Judith Donath from Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. She says whereas Facebook lumps everyone together and makes you talk to all your Friends, Google+ will allow for more separation.
Also in this program, we talk to Ricky Robinnet, one of the creators of a game called World of Fourcraft. It uses the geolocation service Foursquare to turn all of New York City into one big game of Risk. You sign up and pick a borough of allegiance (Manhattan, Brooklyn, etc.). Whenever you check in anywhere in the city, your presence is counted as a troop and control of that region is decided by an algorithm based on how many people checked in there and which borough they represented.