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Google Plus Sets Out To Compete With Facebook

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And let's go from gold to Google Plus. Now that Google Plus has been running for a few weeks, we're going to take a closer look at the latest would-be rival to Facebook. We brought up the social networking site while talking with the technology journalist Jennifer 8 Lee.

So weve got Google Plus up here.

MS. JENNIFER 8 LEE (Technology journalist): So its white and it's sort of a much more elegant design, compared to what I consider a fairly cluttered look of Facebook.

INSKEEP: Nina Gregory, who's the producer of this segment, put up a posting here already. It says Steve Inskeep is about to interview Jennifer 8 Lee about Google Plus for MORNING EDITION. What do you think he should ask her about? Already a bunch of people have put in questions here. For example, Greg Yanick asks: Is her middle name really 8?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LEE: It is really 8. Eight is good luck in Chinese.

INSKEEP: Oh.

Ms. LEE: So, it's really funny, because when I actually signed up for Google Plus it had pulled my name from my email, and then when I hit like enter, it says your name does not conform with our community standards. Please try again later. And...

INSKEEP: Because your middle name is a number. So we're clear on that. We're clear on that.

Ms. LEE: We're clear.

INSKEEP: A lot of curiosity about what Google Plus means. Does it make sense to have another social network?

Ms. LEE: Yeah. It completely does. In part because, just having multiple of anything spurs innovation.

INSKEEP: Hasnt Google tried to get into this market before and failed?

Ms. LEE: Yeah. I would say that, you know, a lot of people for a long time said Google doesnt get social. In part they, you know, because it's a very engineering kind of company and for some reason social never seemed engineery(ph) enough. And so it kind of basically flopped with Google Buzz, which is sort of a Twitter-ish like product and another one called Google Wave.

So, you know, a lot of people are really skeptical. I was pretty skeptical, kind of, going in. But I would say I have been very pleasantly surprised with Google Plus.

INSKEEP: So do you have any indication that Facebook is worried here?

Ms. LEE: You know, when I signed up for Google Plus my reaction after playing around with it for a little bit was like huh, I think Facebook should be scared. In part, because it's a really elegant product. It's very fast. Search is fantastic. You know, search has never been a strong suit of Facebook. It gives people a lot more control over their, sort of, information.

The other thing that's really powerful is that there's a very strong Google Plus Android app, which allows - among the things that it does is automatically syncs the photos from my phone into my Google Plus account. So it has both a mobile platform and a social platform, whereas Apple has a mobile platform but not a social platform. And Facebook basically has a social platform but not a mobile platform. So, Google suddenly has kind of interesting opportunities with the synergy of where those two things intersect.

INSKEEP: It has been presumed that Facebook has a gigantic advantage over any other social networking venture because it's where hundreds of millions of people already are.

Ms. LEE: Right.

INSKEEP: Is Google Plus likely to be able to overcome that advantage?

Ms. LEE: Yeah. Google is not starting from nothing. It has hundreds of millions of Gmail users. And with Gmail, it has a pretty good representation of the people you communicate with and therefore, your kind of quote/unquote social graph. When I signed up for Google Plus it recommended 500 people for me to invite. You know, and once I invited those 500 people I got another 500 people. So it has a huge install base that it can start from.

Now that weve had several years to sort of understand, you know, how a social network will work, it let me design things from scratch in a way that it's just sort of cleaner. It's like moving into a new house instead of into a cluttered house. And so you can kind of, you know, buy the kind of furniture you like and you can use, you know, decorate things the way you like. And so, in a way, for me, my social circle is more fairly represented on Google Plus.

INSKEEP: Well, Jennifer 8 Lee, thanks very much.

Ms. LEE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.