The Google+ gold rush problem

Unless you were at Harvard in 2004, it's unlikely you were an early user of Facebook. And few people saw the potential of Twitter in its early days; instead, it was often ridiculed as a place where people shared what they had for breakfast -- while no one else cared.

With Google+ showing possibilities of being the next major social network -- although that's by no means assured -- some people are stampeding to be part of the phenomenon at the beginning. This time around, pundits can get in early: not merely as early adopters or even first-generation experts, but enthusiasts -- showing that they're insider-y enough to recognize the Next Big Thing.

So, not only did we see insiders reveling in their cool-kid status when Google+ access was tough to obtain and early-in users flaunting it to others. After just a couple of weeks, I've read serious predictions from serious writers and analysts claiming Google+ may supplant everything from Facebook to Twitter to blogs.

Some of that may well be true, and I'm not questioning whether those posting such predictions actually believe them. My concern is that the gold rush to stake out a claim to being social networking cool is having a chilling effect on those who may be skeptical that Plus will become integrated into hundreds of millions of people's lives.

I suppose that means Google+ accurately reflects the real social world, if people feel peer pressure to fit in with the in crowd. But it will be a pity if the Google+ gold rush turns the service itself into an echo chamber among those who simply reinforce each other's opinions about how great the service is and how elite they are to have gotten in early.

Sharon Machlis is online managing editor at Computerworld. Her e-mail address is You can follow her on Twitter @sharon000, on Facebook, on Google+ or by subscribing to her RSS feeds:
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