Should I get an account on Google Plus?Answered January 7, 2012
Should you get an account on Google Plus? To be honest, the answer is probably going to be out of your hands soon enough anyway. But you deserve to know what's happening. The people who run Google have looked at the future and they're frightened. There's an ever-increasing volume of "stuff" of all types on the Internet -- websites, yes, but also microblogs and video streams and podcasts and social networks, and much more. Only a certain amount of that stuff can be indexed properly so that it shows up in a search engine.
Moreover, the value that the stuff has varies from person to person. We're influenced by where we're from, what interests us, what our friends have to say, and more. The incredible willingness many people have shown to share a vast array of personal details with Facebook has gotten the people at Google to wonder what they can do to get you to let down your guard with them, as well. After all, Facebook's ability to target advertising to you personally no longer is based upon broad targets like your age and where you live...it also draws from your interests, your friends' interests, and the things you talk about. That's enormously valuable to potential advertisers.
So to draw on this, Google created Google Plus, which is in a lot of ways a direct rival to Facebook. But the problem Google's having is that a lot of people *have* joined -- but most haven't. Facebook claims 800 million users. Google Plus doesn't have a fraction of that.
So Google is now trying -- pretty aggressively -- to get you to use Google Plus, whether you intend to or not. Ultimately, they'd like to have it fully integrated with their other services, like YouTube and Google Reader, Google News, Blogger, and plenty of others. That's why you may have noticed their "+1" links showing up in more places, too.
Google's main problem, for now, is that Facebook seems to be all that most people can handle. Many folks feel overwhelmed just by trying to keep up with their Facebook friends, and don't know why they'd want to duplicate those friendships on Google Plus, too. But from the perspective of a person who takes his digital footprint pretty seriously, I'd have to recommend that you at least establish your account with Google Plus, assuming that you already have a Google account -- on a service like Gmail or YouTube. Google isn't going to give up on its Plus experiment easily, so it's likely to be around in a year or two, if not for the long haul. So even if you don't want to spend a lot of time on it, it's going to be worth at least marking your territory by registering your own name and making sure that you *do* exist within the Google Plus universe. It doesn't cost anything, and you can always use it to point people to the places where you *can* be found more regularly online, like your Facebook account or your own blog. But you might also find that there's value to Google Plus in its own right. For now, it seems to have attracted a pretty broad range of technology enthusiasts, and it's possible to "listen in" on their conversations by adding them to your "circles" on Google Plus. For a free service, it might not be half-bad.