NASA takes giant leap onto Google Plus


Ever manifesting the explorer spirit, NASA appears to be the first federal agency to have joined Google+.

The agency debuted its own NASA Google+ page on the social networking site on Nov. 7. That is the same day that Google opened the social networking service to corporations, nonprofits and government agencies for the first time.

“We are just getting started on Google+” the agency said in its initial posting. The NASA Google+ page had attracted 15,280 followers by Nov. 9.

NASA’s Google+ page resembles a blog: it has entries on Soyuz spacecraft, an Antarctic mission and a nebula photograph. Hundreds of Google+ users have shared the entries on their networks and added comments on NASA’s page.

However, time will tell whether the latest social network has staying power. Where NASA has gone, others may take longer to follow.

Recent user trends on Google+ offer a mixed view of the network’s popularity and suggest it may take a while before a critical mass of public sector agencies follow NASA’s lead.

Google began rolling out the Google+ network in July, offering many similar features to Facebook, including the ability to share status updates and photographs with a single click. Google also claimed to offer more sophisticated sharing tools allowing users to create “Circles” of users targeted for content; users could designate friends for a family circle, professional circle or neighborhood circle, for example.

While Google officials say the social network now has about 40 million participants and is growing, some observers have groused that Google had limited its own growth by previously making it impossible for companies, nonprofits and government agencies to utilize the site. Until recently, Google+ only allowed for personal profiles.

Google, partially in response to those complaints, debuted the Google+ Pages service on Nov. 7 that allows corporations, agencies and other entities to form Google+ pages.

A handful of government agencies have jumped at the chance. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel became the first mayor to set up a Google+ page for his office on Nov. 7.

But there are skeptics suggesting that the recent addition of Google+ Pages is too little and too late, and windows of opportunity already may have have shut for Google+.

“I’ve been surprised by just how dreary the site has become,” Slate’s Farhad Manjoo wrote in a Nov. 9 article predicting a bleak future for Google+.

The real test lies ahead, now that Google+ has cleared a path for nonprofits and government agencies to sponsor pages on the site. With NASA as a trailblazer, the question is whether other agencies will follow.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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