The most profound concept in Google+ is Circles. And it is probably the most discussed one right now.
- “But there’s one towering, brilliant difference: Circles”, New York Times
- “Forget being friended on Facebook or followed on Twitter. What you really want now is to be Circled—or so Google hopes.”, Wall Street Journal
- “Die Circle-Funktion ist nicht originell – aber ungeheuer praktisch und einfach zu benutzen” Spiegel Online
- and even on e-cards.
To understand this it is best to step back and look how people use the existing social networks.
For example, I actively use Twitter, XING, LinkedIn and Facebook. I use them for different purposes and therefore connect with different people.
- XING – “The Professional Business Network with More Than 10 Million Members Worldwide”
I use XING as professional network and to stay in contact. I connect with people from business, school and university and a few family members. I share my contact details and professional profile. I also like the capabilities around groups and event.
XING is strong in (Continental) Europe and in my opinion it is biggest asset is their focus on security.
- LinkedIn – “Over 100 million professionals use LinkedIn to exchange information, ideas and opportunities”
I use LinkedIn similar to XING as a professional network and to stay in contact. I connect with business people (primarily colleagues) and a few family members and friends. I share my professional profile. That’s it. I have not yet found groups very appealing.
LinkedIn is strong in North America and United Kingdom.
- Twitter – “Twitter is a real-time information network that connects you to the latest information about what you find interesting”
I use Twitter to quickly read and share interesting information, primarily business focused. As such I consider it like a news channel, so all sharing is public. I follow colleagues and people who share useful information. I do not use more sophisticated tools like lists.
Twitter is estimated to have “around 200 million users“.
- Facebook – “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.”
I use Facebook to connect with family and close friends. I primarily read and comment. I share about my interests and little about my private life. I am wary about how Facebook as well as the plethora of apps handle privacy. I block shares from particular apps, cautious about spam bombs (“I can see who stalked me on Facebook with this app …”). I dislike any kind of chain letters (“If you do not share this with everybody, the world will come to an end …”).
“More than 750 million active users” are on Facebook according to their statistics.
It is not just that I have different interest groups. It is different things to share, different ways to share and different relevance of other resources (contacts, events, music) to access and share. Then I might like to share somethings with multiple groups. Or with those following me as well as with a few selected friends. Then public sharing has different mechanics, it is about following and not friending.
In addition sharing must include those who are not part of the social network. You can directly share to e-mails. By the way, a “Google+ Invite” is just that. You can even put e-mails into Google+ circles!
Google+ circles makes it possible to map the concept of interest groups. It is based on asymmetric “following” and supports public and “limited” sharing. It has the foundation to address all scenarios public, business, personal, private – at least over time.
Multiple social networks take significant effort to manage accounts, setups, contacts and fiddle with tools (desktop, phone, tablet) and their pitfalls.
That is what makes a single, comprehensive social network for all scenarios so compelling. That is the potential of Google+.
Obviously this puts a lot of power into the “holder” of the circles. We will see how Google will play this.
“One to rule them all, One to find them, One to bring them all and in the network bind them”