Months before the rumors about Google Circles started making the rounds, it occurred to me there was something missing from the social networking landscape. For lack of a better term, I began referring to it as the social private network.
As a professional who also has a private life, the biggest issue I have with sites like Facebook and Twitter is that they don’t allow me to compartmentalize my relationships the way I do in real life. Not only do my professional friends not care that I adopted an ugly duckling in Farmville, I don’t particularly want them to know how I waste my time, nor do I want to clutter up their timeline with my gaming activities.
I finally settled on using Twitter and blogging when I’m wearing my professional hat, leaving Facebook for the more traditional social networking activities. Since some of my Facebook friends are also professionals in their own right, my tweets also get posted to my Facebook stream where my non-technical friends are generous enough to ignore my techno-babble.
From the little bit I’ve seen of Google+, maybe there’s still hope. The biggest differentiator between Circles and Facebook is who owns the content stream. Facebook lets my friends hide some of the things in my stream that they don’t want to see whereas Google lets me control the visibility of things in my stream. I think that’s going to be a huge win for Google, although the number of Google+ users is likely to be smaller than the Facebook population.
Given that more controlled forums generally attract a significantly smaller number of users, I think it would be more accurate to say that Google+ is trying to be a different Facebook, making any comparisons between the two highly subjective at best. I think users like me are likely to embrace it as a welcome change of pace. I’m not sure anyone else will fully understand it.
That said, it’s still a new ball game and we can only speculate about what Google+ and Facebook will look like a year from now.