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Google begins to move in the same social Circles as Facebook

News this week that Google is about to enter the Social Networking business, against the growing dominance of Facebook, comes just as most other socia

By PETER WHITE

Published: 30 June, 2011

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News this week that Google is about to enter the Social Networking business, against the growing dominance of Facebook, comes just as most other social networks are either up for sale, as in the case of MySpace, or considering how to make a comeback on the back of the fact that Facebook appears to have saturated.

We wrote a week or so back that this is the first quarter in the US and Europe that Facebook has lost regular users, based on numbers extracted from the Facebook advertising reporting system.

The new Google offering accepts something that older people find fundamentally difficult about Facebook, and this is that you have to create your own differences manually between one group of friends and another. Younger people tend to have a single version of who they are, which everyone is allowed to see, on the strict understanding that their teachers and parents aren’t among those people. Younger people are trying to work out who they are, older people already have split personalities. Older people have issues with this – they may have children and want to manage the level of personal detail they see, they may have sports pals which they share off color jokes with and work mates which would blanch at their home life.

Ask a gay guy who plays football, but who hasn’t come out yet, just how he positions himself on Facebook – to the jocks, to his mother, to his workmates, to his partner - and you’ll see what we mean. Similarly ask a couple who wife swap how they present themselves to their children and their workmates and brothers and sisters? Not all of us can afford to be just one person and in the end everyone is complex and needs a more complex, layered, social tool. Most right now use multiple tools, which is perhaps why there is room for LinkedIn alongside Facebook.

This is why the Google idea for its social network Google+ (Google Plus) intrigues us, because it is based on something it calls Circles and that gets older users over the issue of the bland straightforwardness of Facebook. Just splitting your life into business and leisure you might get a combination of Facebook and LinkedIn, but Google+ promises to make that experience drag and drop, and multi-layered. This will work as long as people are okay with Google knowing this much about them.

Google says in a blog that “Not all relationships are created equal. So in life we share one thing with college buddies, another with parents, and almost nothing with our boss,” and interestingly at Faultline we have phrased it virtually the same with our own criticisms of Facebook in the past. It added, “…today’s online services turn friendship into fast food—wrapping everyone in friend paper—and sharing really suffers.”

Google targets Facebook as sloppy, scary, insensitive and turns conversations into public performances and brings on stage fright and says that the answer is circles, where each circle of friends can be kept apart, offering a different persona, complete with separate messages and images, to each group.

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