As an amateur photographer, the highest praise I can receive since I began photographing people (which really began with my first SLR) is when someone uses one of my shots as their Facebook profile picture. It is essentially an acknowledgement that it is currently their favourite image of themselves and the way they wish to be seen by others. So, with the photos from Ruth and Jonny’s wedding now up, I was incredibly flattered to find both the bride and groom using my photos. Thank you.
On the subject of social networks, I remain confused by Google’s strategy with its fledgling Facebook rival. They once again launched via the “exclusive” closed beta route that worked so well for GMail, apparently failing to realise that it fundamentally worked because its email service was still compatible with every other email service. By contrast Google Wave failed miserably under the same system because early adopters had no one with whom to communicate. Similarly a social network, unsurprisingly you might well argue, requires social interaction to thrive.
They have finally flung open the doors to the population at large. So now everyone will be streaming into this brave new utopia, right? Well, they might have if there were important differentiators to set it apart from Facebook, like per-post visibility settings and grouping features. Unfortunately, Facebook has spent the last few months replicating those very features itself.
That is not to say Facebook merely aped Google’s innovations. Its per-post settings are arguably a superior implementation as it lets you hide from certain people as well as add them, a feature I suggested to Google was necessary soon after joining the beta. Meanwhile grouping — be it in “Circles” or “Lists” — is really inspired by “Aspects” in the open source project Diaspora. Sadly the crawling pace of its development is likely to leave it hopelessly outclassed, much as I love its notion of a decentralised system through which you don’t simply hand over all your data to a third party.
The last remaining card for Google+ to play is “Hangouts” which I expect to see it pushing more strongly now. So far I have only had the opportunity to use this feature one-on-one but group video chat does offer interesting possibilities beyond “socially” watching YouTube clips, particularly with improving Android integration.
The bottom line: I am very grateful to Google+ for sorting out two of Facebook’s key failures but, now that it has, I suspect any notion of mass migration may be little more than a pipe dream, exclusive or open.