Monday, July 04, 2011

It's time for an entente cordiale

As anyone who bothers reading my updates on Twitter or Facebook knows, I got very excited indeed about Google+, finally got in and have been enjoying playing with it for a few days now. First impressions are very positive, with the usual reservations of any beta Google product and the excitement that us early-adopting geeks always have when we get to link to the same people in exciting new ways.

Google+'s engineering is very snazzy indeed - although it doesn't have as many features as many of us imagined, we have faith that they will come and with a very few glitches what it has built works very well indeed. An exciting sign is that Google's generally fairly antisocial founders are using Google+ to share and an interesting one is that Mark Zuckerberg is lurking there, not sharing in public but making some circles. It's intriguing enough that he has already been ranked as Google+'s most popular user. Yep, geek gossip heaven, this stuff.

My biggest request now is not new features, but a friendly agreement. The big three - Google, Twitter and Facebook - are so ingrained in our lives now that it's hard to imagine us drifting away from any of them, but so it was with Myspace. I don't doubt that everyone expects to see a massive battle to the death with one winner, but I'd prefer another path.

For someone like me, Google Circles is already an interface that I really like using. I want to make my public updates broadcast straight to Twitter. I would prefer however, to continue to read most updates on the Twitter interface because the updates there are snappier. The only reason anyone can follow more than 1,000 people on Twitter is that we say very little on there. Perfect.

I would love to have a circle called Facebook, where me and people who were happy to authorise the link could communicate, with me on Google+ and them on Facebook. Then, while they play on Farmville, I can be reading and +1ing the latest geeky discussions in my stream. Or Reader articles; Reader needs to become incorporated into Google+ forthwith, they could simply merge it into Sparks. Oh yeh, and I want this blog post to automatically go into my Circles stream - *obviously*.

What I'm trying to say is we all want something different: we want to concoct our own unique mix, a little bit of Twitter here and a little bit of Facebook there, a few of Google magical interfaces pulled together into one page. For that to happen, we need the big three to give us the ability to push and pull our data very easily, to link up our contacts rather than duplicate groups and to manage our communication in whichever ways work for us, not the way websites lay on for us. Each site will always have features that you have to visit the site to use but we should not have to feel like we're dumping old friends by spending more time in new communities just because we like a new interface more (or just because we're super-twitchy early adopting geeks). Twitter, Google and Facebook all have an interest in making 'their' site the universal website, but equal interest in defending an open, social web and making it easy for us to connect communities. I mean genuinely easy too, not just 'we'll make it really easy for you as long as you come over to us' easy.

Facebook has everyone I love (at least all of them who have joined Facebook), therefore I have a lot of affection for it. Twitter and Google have my trust because they work so well I barely notice them and they connect me with information and people I like and respect. Love and trust are very emotional ways to talk about websites, but this illustrates how much these tools have become part of our lives and the way people interact. There are billions of unique individuals using the web and website developers do not need to seek universal use. By improving on the different strengths of their sites and their communities as they evolve, they will create stronger loyalty amongst their users and this in turn makes it more likely that we'll build up more detailed profiles and be served more useful, efficient advertising. And while all of you enjoy your riches, the rest of us can enjoy the rich variety of the ecosystem.

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