Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Google+

I have been using Google+ (G+) for a couple of days now. I have to say I like it. It is clean, simple and gives you a lot of control. These are all things that Facebook fails at. Some years ago Facebook trialled a system called Facebook Lite. It was basically just your news feed and photos and events. I loved it. The normal Facebook is a distracting mess of a million clickable links, confusing menus and overlapping sections. It is not as bad as Myspace but it is certainly not the best way making a social network easy to interact with. G+ doesn’t suffer from this UI overload and I hope that as it develops it keeps things clean and simple.  

So why do I like it so much? Well:
  • I like that I can control who my posts go to (Facebook groups lets you do the same but it is a pain to set up), the circles feature is a joy to use. Some people I invited have been confused by the circles concept; I think this is mainly because Facebook’s equivalent is so complex.
  • I like that is it just like twitter where I can follow people without having to friend them and can make public posts for all the world to see.
  • I like that it integrates so well with Picasa (soon to be Google Photo).
  • I really like that it has such a great mobile app, the instant photo upload is a good idea well implemented  and Huddle (group chat) will be really useful when all my friends are on the network.
  • But most of all I love the potential it has. G+ in its current form is the first step in Google’s wider social agenda. Project Emerald Sea will be introducing social aspects into almost all of Google’s products (read this in-depth Wired article for more background). Soon you will be scheduling events with Google calendar and inviting your G+ friends. Your Gmail and Android contacts will be your G+ friend list. Maps and Google Latitude will be integrated to let you know when your G+ friends are nearby (if their privacy options allow it). Collaborating on Google Documents will be so much more streamlined and many more features I can’t even think up. I think the future is bright for G+.

However I do not think it will be plain sailing for Google. G+ has a mountain to climb, it may have gained 10-20 million users in a month, but Facebook has 750 million and climbing. Social networks sink or swim on the number of friends each user has on there. There is no point posting things if no one you know will see them. Also for me the big thing is integration with other networks. I am not going to abandon Facebook (nearly everyone I know is on there) or Twitter (I get most of my news from there). I want to be able to use G+ alongside these two. Google needs to get the G+ API out there ASAP so that developers can integrate it into their apps. I rarely ever use the Android Facebook App because Tweetdeck lets me check and post to Twitter and Facebook in one go. I currently have to repeat my Tweetdeck posts in the G+ mobile app which is a barrier to me using it. I am sure this feature is on the way but it can’t come soon enough for me.

I really hope G+ makes it. The integration with the rest of Google’s products makes it a killer proposition for me and not having all my data sealed inside the Facebook walled garden really appeals. The public release is rumoured to be at the start of August which will be the real test. Can G+ scale to 100+million users? Will that many sign up? Will it suffer the same fate as the Wave? 

While we wait for the answer to those questions here is a Google + tips document for those people already in the +


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