The problem with Google+

There’s a dilemma inherent in using any new social network in a market already saturated with social networks.  Unless all existing social networks are integrated into some massive conglomerate, there is no way to effectively replace one with another one. 

For example, much as I hate Facebook, I still go there.  Why?  Because I have friends and family who use it.  They aren’t going to not use it.  I could try to drag them over to another network, but to what end?  It’s not likely I will be able to convince everyone to make the switch.  This forces me to just suck it up and use the system, even though I don’t want to and don’t even like it all that much.

Now that the Great Wall of Google+ has been torn down, and Apps users can finally use it, I find that I want to use Google+.  I have no idea why this is.  Maybe it’s just the novelty, the new-social-network smell.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been waiting so long and I’m going to make use of it, dammit.  Maybe it’s the fact that the interface hasn’t (yet) been crapped up by all sorts of stuff I don’t want (live updating stream locked in the sidebar atop a new, locked-in friends list? No and no, thank you).  It could also be because it has insidiously inserted itself into everything I do; even though I don’t use Gmail, I can’t get away from the dark gray plusbar at the top of Google Reader or the ubiquitous +1 icons in search results.  Whatever the reasons, I feel the compulsion to go back, which leaves me with a problem.

Two problems actually.

Three problems, if truth be told.

Those problems being: Facebook, Google+ and Diaspora*.  They all do the same thing in more or less the same way.  I can pretty much knock Diaspora* off the list because – though it was a wonderful experiment in openness and creating a Facebook alternative that could be hosted by anyone (sort of) anywhere (that supports Ruby) – the long delay before the alpha was ready for the public gave Google more than enough time to get all the things right that Facebook got wrong (which more or less makes Diaspora* and Google+ identical – acquisition?).  That still leaves two problems: Google+ vs. Facebook.  I’d love to give up Facebook for good, but that’s not going to happen without a mass Facebook exodus (which is also not going to happen).  Therefore I find myself bouncing between two social networks which is absolutely ridiculous (mostly because in neither case is there anything particularly new and/or interesting happening – my Google+ stream being too new and fresh, not yet overrun by stuff I don’t care about – and Facebook being, well, Facebook).

As good as Google+ may be, it’s never going to beat Facebook (at least, not in the sense that it will overtake and replace Facebook — the way Facebook did to MySpace).  Facebook isn’t going anywhere.  Since Google is also not going anywhere, the best they could do would be to find some way to merge the two.  Not necessarily by buying Facebook or doing a direct conglomerate – I’m thinking more along the lines of an RSS feed, an alternative stream, and a way to use Google+ as a Facebook client.  It’s dangerous territory.  It would be easy to just import all the same data that sent us (well, me) running from Facebook with a myriad of updates about virtual farms being maintained by people I barely knew in high school and former co-workers.  Google+ is already the cool kids hangout; to maintain this, they’d need some way of allowing you to subscribe to Facebook feeds for people you want to follow, but not a direct import of all your Facebook friends.  Because, let’s face it, if there’s any reason we’d give up Facebook it’s because of post-Friending remorse – suddenly being sorry that you clicked Accept on that friend request from someone you hadn’t seen or heard from in 15 years. 

Being able to subscribe to Facebook friends via Google+ would also allow us to be much better stalkers, hiding behind yet another layer of anonymity.  And really, that’s what social networks are really about, isn’t it?  Instead of “friend requests” Facebook should just call it like it is.  Suzie has requested to be a voyeur.  Do you accept her voyeurism request?  If we’re going to use the internet to live vicariously through the lives of people we never see IRL, we should at least be honest about it. 

Oh, right, I was talking about Google+…The best part of Google+ is being able to say +1 to something in a totally non-ironic way.  #win.

Update: Okay, so if you use this Chrome extension, you can get your Facebook feed (and Twitter feed, if you really wanted) in your Google stream. Not a perfect solution, exactly, but it’s more or less what I was asking for so problem solved. For now.