It's too soon to know if Google Plus, the online giant's latest social media effort, will be the “next big thing,” although much of the online hyperbole already is seeking to render a verdict.
I've been on Google Plus less than a week, and I find it handy and well-designed, like most Google tools. Keep in mind that previous Google social media efforts — Buzz and Wave — deserved the derision that rained down upon them.
Mere hours after I invited my 20-something nephew to Google Plus, he declared himself unimpressed. I also doubt that my mother, already comfortable on Facebook, is seeking a new social media outlet.
Nevertheless, Google Plus has its good points.
Instead of Facebook “friending,” you select people to put in predetermined “circles.” That allows you click to see what your work colleagues are posting, click again to see family posts, or simply see the posts of all of those you follow at once.
It's a nice feature for those overwhelmed by the flood of posts on Facebook, which offers a similar lists feature that few appear to use. For some, the chance to reset their circle of friends could be a drawing card for Google Plus.
I also like the “sparks” feature that allows one to save and follow keywords at a click, much like hashtag searches on Twitter.
One of my colleagues suggested that Google Plus, through its video chat “hangout,” could become an online collaboration site for much of our newsroom, which already uses Google Documents and Google Calendar extensively.
With an estimated 10 million people already on board (versus hundreds of millions on Facebook), the final determination of Google Plus' place in the Internet pantheon remains unsettled.
Meanwhile, Google invitations are becoming a bit easier to obtain as the company ramps up the site. As more join, the masses will determine if Google Plus becomes a must-follow social media.
It's not like I need another social media platform to downgrade my productivity, so at some point I suspect I won't be active on Google Plus without scaling back my activities on Facebook or Twitter.
Meanwhile, keep in mind that the free service ultimately is designed to deliver your eyeballs to advertisers. As one online sage noted: “If you're not paying for something, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold.”