You can be my friend on Facebook, dear reader, but if and when Google launches its new social network, I probably will not accept friend requests from people I do not intimately know. That is because I, like most Google users, do not want my Google account to be more social. I am perfectly happy being social on Twitter and Facebook but when it comes to Google, I cherish my privacy.
Rumors swirled this weekend that Google would once again throw it’s hat into the social ring with the launch of ‘Circles,’ a new social network, at the South By Southwest conference in Austin, Texas. Google denied that it would launch this week and refuted the claims that such a project is in the works.
Even if Circles is not a real thing and just a labs project, Google’s eventual re-entry into the social circle is inevitable. Make no mistake, Google wants to be more social and I have some theories about why they have never really succeeded.
Google has tried again and again to play in the social networking space. Orkut and Google Buzz are just a few examples of good intentions gone awry. I think that this happens because very few people want Google to be social. When you trust Google with such private information as your daily prescriptions on Google Health, you don’t feel motivated to start to friend request your high school classmates.
In fact, I am writing this column in Google Docs. I have a lot of work in my Google Docs folders. I am fine sharing certain documents, giving people preview permission on other documents, but I would be uncomfortable participating in social networking with people who would be one click away from such private information.
Google’s rumored network, Circles, is supposed to have more focus on privacy and inner circles. You would be able to share certain information in very targeted ways. I can relate to the need for that. When I post photos of my son, they are shared online for my family and friends but friends of friends often can see and comment on them on Facebook and that’s okay but sometimes I just want my immediate family to see my son’s face covered in peas. And when I promote my Fox Tech Take pieces on Twitter, my family and friends have to endure my self promoting. Perhaps Google has found a way to fix this. Perhaps they have found a way to add targeted sharing to all Google services and not just a new stand-alone social network.
I for one would love to see a new social network that did not feel like a popularity contest. When a new social network starts to gain traction, it seems to follow the same trajectory as its predecessor. You see a few Weblebrities gain big numbers of followers and then you feel like you need to catch up, find a lot of “friends,” and start sharing like a madman. What if the next up and coming social network were not quite so social, for lack of a better word? What if the communication inherent to the social network felt more like real life, more authentic? What if it were targeted towards the circles in my life that were actually meaningful? It may not be quite so valuable to marketers because the volume of traffic to any given link or page would be lower, but it would be more valuable to me. So Google, if you want to give social another go, I’m willing to try again.