Google+: Doing the Math

Someone call MIT! Don Rose has reduced the entire Google+ phenomenon to one mathematical equation.

Don Rose, Contributor

July 25, 2011

4 Min Read

Welcome to new math. It isn't the new math you expect. Call it social math. Students, take a moment and please memorize the following equation. There will not be a test.

G+ = (FB + TW) + Circ + (Vid x 10)

I distilled the buzz surrounding Google+ down to a single equation, but note the equation does not nor will ever include the failed Google Buzz.

Now, here it is again in plain English:

Google+ equals the best of Facebook and Twitter, plus better organization of your Circles of friends, plus the ability to videochat with up to 10 people.

It's not just the sum of these parts, of course, but these are the shiniest of the bright new features drawing all our attention this month.

Let's look a little closer at our equation. Do you agree?

Must it be the best of Facebook and Twitter? Yes. To succeed.

Google+ allows for sharing and liking (what Google calls +1) and it lets you keep up with the streams of those you follow -- just like Facebook. But on Google+, you are able to follow the streams of people you are not friends with. Like competitors, frenemies and celebrities. Now, that's like Twitter.

Adding contacts in Google+, as 20 million people worldwide apparently already know, means you put them into Circles. Unlike Facebook, no one has to approve you back as a friend. And no one can see what you call them when you add them to a circle.

Google+ contact-adding isn't as constraining as Facebook, and that's its most intriguing feature. It's cleaner. Simpler. Easier. It lends itself to a math equation it's so clean.

Adding a new contact to your circle takes just seconds -- Gmail-integration is key here. You really notice the difference between Facebook and Google+ when you consider how they started. Facebook launched from a University "pigbook" project. Google+ was created by grownups and tested for over a year inside the company, sources says.

As for the "Circ" in my G+ equation, it stands not for Circles, but for the increased social circulation the service allows. Google+ connecting and sharing is fast due to the asynchronous way that users add people to their networks.

Bottom line: G+ friending is a lot like Twitter and its following method. But unlike Twitter and more like Facebook, the G+ streams you see from your Circles are not limited to 140 characters. G+ makes discussions easier, clearer and available in rich media. Do long posts, short posts, posts with pics, posts with video. Anything you can do in Facebook news feeds, you can do here. +1

Circles let you organize all the people you are following into Family, Close Friends, Celebs, Tech Gurus, Potential Dates, whatever you want to call them. You can name Circles to hold people you dislike, people to avoid, people to game into getting you a better job, no matter. Only you will see it.

I like that you can create a circle with hundreds of folks and then, just a circle of one. (In mathematical terms, that would be a point.) Decide which Circles to share your updates with -- you might want to share pictures with your kids with just family, for instance, though at present you have to change the default to make sure no one emails your stuff outside your circle. I expect Google to fix that oversight.

In short, Circles in G+ really give you more control over your social tasks. You can get some control in Facebook, but it requires a lot of reverse cleanup. Google designed Google+ to do this from the get go.

Finally, the last part of the equation: Add the ability to videochat with up to 10 people.

Hangouts are private or public with two to 10 people. Where else could you have a video dialogue with Michael Dell, who reportedly created a hangout recently for Dell dudes and dudettes, or whatever they call themselves. That's a progressive feature not yet available in any social network I've seen.

The social balance of power is shifting -- and whether Google+ sticks is too early to tell -- but it came swinging out of the gate.

Consider that, after Google+ launched, Facebook announced Skype videochat for FB users -- but one-on-one only. Google+ was days old then, but Facebook was already playing catchup, rolling out Microsoft-owned Skype, perhaps, to scare its unexpected competition.

G+ is not just a sum of what has gone before. It is greater.

Or, in the new math, G+ > FB + TW.

Based in Los Angeles, Don Rose is a senior contributor for BYTE. He's also a computer consultant, book author, TV writer, and Editor of and Follow him @aidaily, or email him at [email protected].

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