<IT WORLD> Google networks - again
By Martin J Young
HUA HIN, Thailand - Google, in its expanding efforts to quash the competition
and dominate the world's web-related technology, released another service this
week, this one one aimed squarely at rival Facebook. Google Plus, or Google+,
is the search giant's long-awaited social network that allows users to manage
the way they share information with designated groups or "circles" of friends.
The layout and interface looks remarkably similar to Facebook's and there are
five main components: "Circles", which lets users group their contacts into
different categories such as family, friends, work colleagues; "Sparks", which
is a feed that allows them to syndicate or push content they have found
interesting onto their circled contacts; "Hangouts", which feature live group
video chats; "Instant Uploads", which manages content posted on
the fly from mobile devices; and "Huddle", a group texting feature.
Google has had several attempts at dislodging Facebook, but these have fallen
flat. "Wave" was the first, and then "Buzz", which landed the company in hot
water with the Federal Trade Commission due to privacy issues [See Buzz
Google+ operates a little differently to Facebook in that it gives more control
over which "friends" get to see the content posted by a user. Facebook friends
are all categorized as the same and will all get the shared information unless
the user has tweaked the settings to exclude them.
Following the launch on Wednesday, Google gave users the ability to invite
friends to the service - it then had to disable the invitations after just a
few hours due to overwhelming demand.
There has already been a number of requests to complement the new network, one
being the ability to import data from Facebook. This is likely to be one of the
keys to the success of Google+; manually setting up an entire social structure
with years' worth of posts and data is not something most users will relish.
Other concepts floated include an App Store, a Chrome extension, and the
ability to stream data back to Facebook.
Naturally once the bugs have been ironed out Google+ is likely to be fully
integrated into the Google ecosystem which includes Gmail, Maps, News, Android,
Chrome, Picassa, and YouTube. Just like Apple, Google wants its users to go
nowhere else for their Internet activities.
Those bugs are already being discovered on the young social network, which is
still only a beta version, and Google has far from a clean record when it comes
to privacy issues. One such glitch is the ability to re-share what someone else
has posted, which will mean that it gets sent outside of the original set of
The discovery, made by the Financial Times, could result in a photo being
posted by user A getting re-shared to the public by user B unless the facility
has been disabled. The nature of Google+ is that everything can be done quickly
with a few clicks, which is exactly how it should be if Google want to win over
Following the Buzz fiasco, which resulted in entire contact lists being shared,
Google is treading carefully and has stated that the service is still in
limited trial and users may find some rough edges. "We're actively listening to
feedback from our testers. Prior to launching the product, we may make
adjustments to the system in response to this feedback."
The company also made it clear that anyone wanting to leave Google+ could do so
with ease and take all of their data with them using the Google Takeout
feature. This is not available on Facebook, which suspends the account but very
rarely deletes any data from its servers.
The fledgling social network has a long way to go, but with only one real
alternative out there it could well appeal to a large percentage of Facebook's
500 million users.
Following on from the Firefox fiasco in which one of Mozilla's core employees
stated that the company was not interested in enterprise users, Microsoft
wasted no time in reaffirming support for corporate clients.
Microsoft said it will continue to offer support for Internet Explorer 8 and 9
until 2020, while Mozilla stated that there would be no more support for
Firefox 4 just three months after its release.
Microsoft released another preview version of IE10 this week and touted what it
called the HTML5 engine and greater web standards support such as CSS3 and
for the touch screen interface that arrives with Windows 8 for tablets.
News Corp offloaded music and entertainment website MySpace to a small
ad-targeting company called Specific Media LLC for US$35 million this week. The
Internet property was acquired for $580 million just six years ago but has seen
traffic and revenue pounded by the likes of Facebook in recent years.
Specific Media has teamed up with actor and entertainer Justin Timberlake, who
has also invested in MySpace, to sell ads and develop "socially activated"
advertising campaigns. Since the acquisition, the new owners have shed over
half of the website's 450 staff. Just two years ago, the number of MySpace
employees was closer to 1,400.
The sale price falls a long way short of the $100 million that Rupert Murdoch's
News Corp was gunning for.
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.