Reason #1 Why Google+ is Still in Beta Testing and is ‘Invite Only’ For Now

Tim Bradshaw has noticed the same thing I did last night, a flaw in Google+’s resharing option. In his article, “The first Google+ privacy flaw”, Bradshaw explains:

Say a close friend of mine posts a picture of her kids to her “friends” Circle. With the “share” option on every Google+ post, I can reshare this with absolutely anyone, from another Circle to which my friend does not belong, right through to making it completely public. The same loophole applies not just to photos but to any kind of post, as far as I can tell.

If she’d known about this risk (and how would she?), my friend could have disabled resharing using the drop-down menu on the right-hand side of every post, but it doesn’t seem to be possible to do this before she’d already published it. Google+ also, for now, lacks any way to turn off resharing of all your posts from within its privacy settings.

Personal pictures, posts and location check-ins could quickly leak into the public domain this way. The Google+ equivalent of the newsfeed updates in realtime and doing most things on the service requires admirably few clicks. These are very good attributes for a new site that’s seeking to win people over through ease of use.

But it could also lead to resharing without giving a second thought to the light-grey text that indicates a post is “limited”.

Indeed, Bradshaw is correct about this. He did, of course, send feedback to Google about this. According to Bradshaw, Google “acknowledged the loophole. It says that this is exactly the kind of issue it hopes to identify and resolve while Google+ is still in ‘field trial’ mode.”

And that is why Google+ is still in Beta testing and is ‘invite only’ for now.

This resharing flaw in Google+’s Beta testing can be compared to posting on someone else’s Facebook wall. When you post on someone’s Facebook wall, people you don’t know can or may see your post depending on the wall owner’s settings. For example, if I post on Friend A’s wall, I don’t have the option of limiting who gets to see that post since it’s not my wall. If Friend A has allowed all his/her friends to see “friends’ posts”, then people I don’t know can see what I wrote. (There is a way to limit who can see “friends’ posts”, but you don’t know what settings your friend has chosen.) Facebook isn’t even in Beta testing, and they certainly aren’t going to change their wall posting feature since that’s what’s unique about Facebook. If you’re a Facebook user, you have to live with the fact that whenever you post on someone else’s wall, others can generally see your posts whether you know them or not.

Because Google developers are keen on addressing users’ issues with Google+, I can’t help but feel that in the long-term Google+ will be better than Facebook. It already is better in many ways. For one thing, they did get the contact management and organizing right via ‘Circles’. When I write a new post, if the option to post is set to ‘Public’, it’s obvious because of the green button right under the post box (unlike Facebook which only shows a tiny lock icon and down arrow – I actually forgot about it when that option first came out on Facebook). It’s hard to miss the green ‘Public’ button so I don’t accidentally post something public. When the option is set to one of your Circles, the button is blue. A nice feature of Google+ is Hangouts, which is like Google’s version of Skype within a website. Of course, Google’s chat feature is embedded in Google+ just like in Gmail and iGoogle. Huddles is a way to group chat on your phone with others on Google+ based on who’s in your Circles. Despite all the comparisons to Facebook, Google+’s posting of content and stream is more like a combination of Twitter and Plurk.

As for resharing in Google+, I like it. It’s the part that’s like Twitter. Obviously, the solution to this is to allow each person to turn resharing on or off for each post before they publish the post or to turn resharing on or off for all posts.

I like Google+ so far. Aside from this resharing flaw, I haven’t noticed anything else to make me worried. I can live with Google+ until they sort out all the flaws – big and small.

As Bradshaw wrote “Testers are in the early-adopter crowd who can probably live with this kind of thing before Google adds a way to disable any resharing by default.”

Maybe I’m an optimist, but I trust that Google will sort things out as we go. And better to do this before Google+ is fully released to the public. Yes, a very good reason why it’s still in Beta testing and is ‘invite only’ for now.

~~~C

Previous blogs on social media and networking:
iPhone Users: Not to Worry, Google Hasn’t Forgotten You
Deleting Facebook – Here’s How
As for Facebook…
Micro-blogging, Social Networking, and a Small Rant
Time to Say Goodbye to Facebook?

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