At 3:54 PM on Tuesday afternoon, I received an e-mail telling me that my friend Hope was “hanging out.” Having no idea what this meant—and being at work and therefore in no position to go “hang out” with her—I ignored both the e-mail and the novel “(Google+)” label next to her name. Surely this was another of those Google features that would come and go silently.
Remember Google Buzz—that weird quasi-Twitter? Or the “Important” emails tag, which to us laypeople seems exactly the same as the “Starred” tag?
Later that evening though, I found social media sites bustling with people seeking Google+ invitations. Apparently they were in short supply and hard to snag, much like those original Gmail invites.
Now I wanted in.
I thought about that time years ago when I made fun of my older brother for joining this strange website at college. All he seemed to do on it was share personal information about which I couldn’t imagine anyone else cared. It was called Facebook.
Facebook is of course the measuring stick by which Google+, Google’s stab at social networking, will chart its success (or lack thereof). Early reviews seem to have high hopes for the network, whose most exciting feature seems to be the ability to group friends into Circles and then decide which Circles you want to share pieces of information with—a streamlined answer to concerns about privacy and transparency on Facebook.
If Facebook allows us to be responsible about our privacy, Google+ forces us to; requiring us, from the get-go, to separate the friends from the acquaintances, the parents from the co-workers. Huddles are a revamped version of the group text. The AOL chat room has been put on camera and brought into the 21st century with Hangouts, one of which Hope was seemingly part of on Tuesday afternoon.
I figured that I had already received one of those coveted invites to Google+. That was why I got Hope’s “hanging out” email in the first place, right? But when, on Tuesday evening, I returned to the previously-overlooked email and giddily clicked the “Learn more about Google+” link, prepared to set up my account, I found the gates locked. I could leave my email address (and did), along with the rest of the masses, and Google would let me know when they were open for business.
“Already invited?” some smaller print read. “We’ve temporarily exceeded capacity. Please try again soon.” It was unclear whether I had missed the boat or never had a spot on board in the first place. Nevertheless, point taken: I was not yet part of the Google+ Circle.
Inquiring further, I learned that on Tuesday, a limited number of people—many of them seemingly Google employees—received 15 invitations each to a “field trial” version to distribute. Those lucky few who were invited, received no further invitations to hand out. It seemed that my brother was again having the last laugh in the tech department: He had gotten an invite from a friend at Google. And though he couldn’t invite me, he assured me I had already been added to his “Family” Circle.
Google refuses to lay out a timeline for the Google+ Project–emphasizing the “project” part of it so as to remind users that more features are in the works and they’re not done hammering out all of the kinks. “How long the testing phase lasts, and how the product evolves will really depend on how it goes,” explains a Google spokesperson. “We don’t have a set amount of time.”
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