Early-adopter reaction for the limited release of Google+, Google's latest and greatest dive into social, proved generally positive this week, but only time will tell whether broad swathes of the populace have the attention and patience for another social network -- especially one with an option-laden and somewhat complicated interface.
What's most interesting right now are the shifts within the company that made Google+ possible, captured in great detail by Wired's Steven Levy, who got a behind-the-scenes look at the project's development.
Mr. Levy's narrative is striking in what it says about Google corporate culture. With a number of failings in the social space, from Orkut to Wave to Buzz, Google might well have not recovered -- at least when it comes to social.
Instead, it acknowledged its failings as well as the strengths of its main rival, Facebook, and focused on delivering an improved product that takes the company outside of its algorithmic comfort zone into the messy world of people. Big , successful companies often aren't good about acknowledging failure. But here Mr. Levy quotes social head Vic Gundotra doing just that :
"The internet is nothing but software fabric that connects the interactions of human beings," Gundotra said. "Every piece of software is going to [be] transformed by this primacy of people and this shift." Gundotra said that to date identifying people has been "the most epic failure of Google.... Because we were focusing on organizing the world's information, the search company failed to do the most important search of all."
But that was about to change.
If it's a rundown of Google+'s strengths and weaknesses you're looking for, however, Search Engine Land has a strong one from Greg Finn. It contains perhaps the best line of all the coverage, exploring whether the +1 button in Google+ does the same thing as the +1 button on Google's search results page (it doesn't).
The name Google+ is not great. The naming convention inside the service isn't much better either. Instead of a 'like,' users give a post a +1. The number of +1's is listed with each post in the form of +#. So if seven people liked a post, it would show as +7. But when one person likes a post, it is just confusing...
I apologize for this next sentence in advance, but there is no better way to state it. From what I have seen so far, every Google+ post that is '+1ed' on Google+ does not show up in your Google +1's off of Google+. That is a lot to say.
Here are some other highlights from the week:
Gawker continued its excellent reporting on Roger Ailes by obtaining a cache of documents from the Nixon Library that includes a memo from 1970 that , according to author John Cook,"reads like a detailed precis for a Fox News prototype."
Though this notion of a Nixon-era GOP-friendly news service never got off the ground, Mr. Ailes' handwriting, if not his signature, is all over the document, surely a sign of things to come.
Slate offered an immersion piece that has one writer live off Groupon coupons for a week. This sort of article can be a bit heavy-handed, but Noreen Malone usefully reminds us that for all Groupon's astronomical valuations, it is basically a hypester for largely geographically-inconvenient, mediocre and unnecessary goods and services --and as such may just hold a mirror to American consumerist desire. "We want to gorge night after night on affordable Thai fare and to guzzle Merlot at wine bars seemingly more numerous than all the grapes in America," she wrote, "and then to drop hundreds of dollars on removing the dental stains and fleshly dimples that result."
The Awl handled Tina Brown's ruminations -- or "fanfiction" -- on what Princess Di would be up to if she were alive withall the respect you'd expect from that site on that topic. Wrote Michelle Dean: "Sure, making up crap can be a fun activity for a lazy afternoon, on the order of doodling hearts all over one's Trapper Keeper. Here are some of my stabs at Diana's opinions about Important Contemporary Issues: I think Diana would have hated David Foster Wallace's fiction. I think she would have thought, frankly, that 'Mad Men' was only medium-good, that really 'Nurse Jackie' was the best show on television. I think she would have found Momofuku overrated."