John Ason, one of our investors at SocialFeet, forwarded me this interesting link about the presentation that spawned Google+. In the post, Paul Adams explains the problem of how facebook’s social graph works. On Facebook, you have one pooled set of friends, regardless of what your relationship is with each person (shown on the left). In real life, you have separate circles of friends based on common interests, geography or life stage. Here’s the graphical depiction of it:
A lot of the innovative “circles” for groups on Google+ stem from this concept. Based on interest, geography and life stage, you have different circles of friends that you want to exchange different information with. Fair enough.
But embedded into Google+ is the notion that you want to have all of these circles on a single platform. But if this diagram is to be believed, each of these circles has little or no overlap. So what’s the benefit of merging your online lives?
In contrast, there are lots of costs associated with a single platform. Complex privacy. Harder to innovate in each specialized social network space. Greater exposure to the risk of privacy violations. In other words, I think that the very analysis done to spark Google+ has the data to show that multiple platforms will serve people better than one unified platform.
[Hat tip to Rebecca Tadikonda for the inspiration for the title of this post.]
No doubt, Google+ is pretty slick, from a tech/UI perspective. It combines good elements from both Facebook and twitter, with a spartan google feel. It is powerfully integrated into google’s suite of products, like picassa and gmail. It is a major improvement over buzz. Google plus should get more interesting as more people use it.
Still, I think it may be too ambitious though, which will eventually cause it have unworkable privacy issues. They want to provide a master social network, which requires a complex, granular privacy model. They have created such a privacy model with the “circles” implementation of groups.
However, my thesis is that consumers will opt to belong to have 6-12 specialized social networks each for a specific content or activity vertical. For example, FB for photos, twitter for interests, linkedin for resumes, zynga for games, SocialFeet for commerce [disclaimer:I am a founder], etc. Each of these networks will have appropriate (but highly differentiated) privacy models, and users will basically adopt the default privacy model for each in a binary yes/no decision. As Fred Wilson blogs:
You either want to be totally public or totally private, but never sort of private and sort of public. It’s just too complicated to be semi-private. That middle ground is treacherous.
Could it be the one social network to rule them all? Fairly unlikely. My guess of what happens to google plus: it gets co-opted by some geography (like urkut) or vertical segment and becomes a niche social network of some sort that survives. So far, the most interesting segment is about google itself (like Sergey Brin’s kite boarding pics from Alaska) and the twitter-like public discussions.
It will be interesting to see how it plays out, especially as Google continues to experiment with social at such a large scale.