Friday, July 29, 2011

Google+ Kind of Sucks

Sorry for the absence the past so many days. A fever, attracted by my freshly showered and foolishly undried hair, had traveled on the wind and wormed its way through the tiny gaps of my window screen to make a home somewhere in the surface quarters of my brain cavity. Unfortunately my immune system had long ago been chased off by bronchitis and lead poisoning, so the beast had no problem ravaging my body with other lovely ailments and leaving me in the bed, bound and drugged.

But now that I've found the strength to repel the demon within, my fingers are once again free to rant and rumble and share with you all of my life's many sour grumbles. The topic of today's tale?

This little bastard!
"Now, now, Mr. Nathan, do watch your language." My apologies, dear audience, but I didn't say it to be mean. Google+, or Google Plus, whichever you'd prefer, is quite literally the bastard child of Facebook and Google, and has more birth defects than a fourth-generation inbred cat.

No. Fucking. Way.
For those of you not in the know, Google+ is being called by man a "Facebook killer" and "Google's answer to Facebook." Right now the program is in a beta trial phase and only available to those who have been invited, much like the original GMail setup. It seems to at least pretend to earn its titles, but after a quick look around, the navigational maze and the empty-yet-cluttered display aren't the only things stopping Google+ from winning any favors.

This was all kind of disappointing to me, because it seemed like all of my friends were raving about how revolutionary and awesome Google+ was, and how it was going to end Facebook in a matter of months. To be honest, I really don't see that happening short or long term. Google+ doesn't really offer anything that Facebook doesn't, except for an easier list of your "likes" to browse through and a disregard for privacy. What it does offer at the moment essentially consists of a news feed and a status, as well as the patented "+1" button, which is essentially a "Like" button, and an impossible to navigate hedge maze of an interface.

Contacts are stored in convoluted sections called "circles" which are basically a less organized form of "groups," which I guess some people never learned about because a lot of bloggers seem to be praising Google+ for the feature that "Facebook never had." There's also something called a "Hangout" which requires a webcam, so I haven't tried it yet, but I assume that if you have Skype, you don't need to bother.

This show and Google+ are equally original.
I assume they'll have an equal amount of episodes.
Alright, maybe likening Google+ to the bane of Hannah-Barbera isn't exactly fair, because the program does have two nifty things. For starters, the social networking aspect includes a section in the user profile where you can list all of the places you've lived over the course of your life, and a handy dandy Google Map shows up to pinpoint all of these locations.

The second nifty thing the program brings to the internetic (term coined, Nathan DiYorio, 2011) table isn't even really part of the greater social networking experience. This would be the "+1" button appearing on the Google search engine. This allows users to "+1" the search results they happen to approve of, and for those of you with a Google account, your friends can see if you've liked a result in the search. This system could drastically alter the way searches are handled, on both a personal and community scale.

The fact that your friends have +1'ed a search result could mean that Google will be more likely to show you that search result, as you'll probably like it too. Google may also be more likely to provide the more popular results of the global opinion. Ultimately this will allow search engines to more accurately locate the most appreciated websites, while also generating a more individualized search.

Unfortunately, nobody knows if this is what Google has in mind. Also, "+1ing" is much more difficult to say than "Liking."

Ultimately, I think the Google+ program has far more potential as a search enhancement than as a social networking utility. Given Google's track record with social networks, they would probably be better off refining the search algorithm than trying to force their way into an entirely different dogfight.

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