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9/16/2010
07:02 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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Google Me? Meh.

Details are starting to emerge about Google Me, the company's rumored Facebook-killing initiative that is beginning to sound like Google Buzz Harder. Google is apparently planning to enhance its existing services with social features rather than building a version of Orkut that appeals to people in the

Details are starting to emerge about Google Me, the company's rumored Facebook-killing initiative that is beginning to sound like Google Buzz Harder. Google is apparently planning to enhance its existing services with social features rather than building a version of Orkut that appeals to people in the U.S. Frankly, I don't know why Google is bothering.I don't really find social networking, as implemented by Facebook, very useful. It's free, so I don't mind having an account. But it's mostly a distraction. It's blogging and communication for people who don't want to bother with an ISP, a WordPress installation, and the dubious joys of dealing with a remote file server.

Perhaps it would be different if I relaxed my Facebook privacy settings, but as I have things fairly locked down, there's not a lot new info coming into the system. When I want to do anything productive, I head to Google for Gmail, Google Apps, or maybe Microsoft Office. I might use Facebook mail more often if it actually connected to the outside world.

The apps on Facebook, at least the ones I'm aware of, all seem to want my personal information. I hate that. So I end up not using them. And so far I don't feel I've lost anything by not using Facebook apps.

Google Buzz has been much the same for me. I don't want to use it to share information. Most shared information that travels through such services is just noise anyway. I suppose if you're in college and have the time to notice where a friend has checked in and go there, social networking has some value. But if you're older and don't have loads of spare time outside of work and home life, it hardly matters what one's friends are posting to Facebook or Buzz. There's too much important stuff to worry about.

I keep hoping the whole social networking thing will blow over and we can all get back to the Internet and computing. But I know I'm just being naive. Social networking is the revenge of normal people, who just want to communicate and don't care about geeky tech issues, about open vs. closed, or any of that. They're happy to overlook the appalling notion of friend lists full of people who aren't really friends for the sake of a service that's easy to use.

And that's why I find Google's push into social networking disappointing. Perhaps Google has to go after the captive eyeballs behind Facebook's wall for the sake of its advertising business. But I have doubts about the value of social networking to Google's ultimate mission, to help organize the world's information and make it (except the private and sensitive info, hopefully) universally accessible. Social networking is a way of filtering certain sorts of information, but I have yet to be convinced that it will make Google's search better. And if I'm wrong and social search really is superior, I'm not convinced I want to give up more privacy for that incremental improvement.

I am trying to keep an open mind about social networking, however, in case Diaspora turns out to be useful. Social networking without surrendering one's personal information to advertisers sounds intriguing.

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