First thoughts on Google+

I know, blogging about Google+ is passé already. I should have done it last week. And anyway, all the clever people have done it already, so what’s the point? Well, thus blog is as much about me thinking out loud as anything else, so, after using Google+ for less that a week, here are some thoughts…

Google+ is Google’s latest attempt at being social, previous attempts being Google Wave and Google Buzz. Wave got a lot of hype for a while, but then everyone lost interest. The technology was amazing, but it was too different and nobody understood what to do with it. Buzz was closer to the mainstream social applications – Twitter and Facebook – but I never really found it engaging enough. Is Google+ any better?

At first sight, Google+ looks a lot like Facebook. The main part of the page is a multi-media stream of updates from your friends, you have a profile page with an About section like Facebook’s Info page, etc. It has a very familiar feel. You manage your friends by putting them in “circles”. You can use circles to control whose updates you see, and also to control who can see what you post. Right there in full view when you post an update is a field controlling who sees it. Updates can be public, or can be directed to specific circles or even to individuals. You can do this with Facebook updates too, but the option to do it is hidden away and most people don’t realise it exists. You can also look at the updates from everyone in all of your circles, or just those from people in a specific circle, just like Twitter lists. So, following somebody’s updates involves putting them in a “circle”. Like Twitter, this process is asymmetric. That is, just because you are following somebody (have them in a circle) doesn’t mean they have to follow you. And just in case you are wondering, the people you follow aren’t told the name of the circle you put them in!

So, Google+ is a mixture of Twitter and Facebook. How does it feel in use? The asymmetric nature of the “circling” makes it feel a lot like Twitter. The follower relationship is a bit less heavyweight because of this, and it is easier, psychologically, to follow anyone you find interesting, whether you know them or not. Just like Twitter. And there will, therefore, be people with thousands, if not, millions of followers, given time. The people who are playing with it now also seem mostly to be Twitter people. Certainly those that I follow, or who follow me, are people who are users of Twitter or Twitter and Facebook. I’ve so far come across nobdby of Google+ who isn’t also a Twitter user. That naturally gives Google+ a Twitter feel – we’ve imported the Twitter version of community. I think that’s a good thing and I hope it sticks!

The current version of Google+ is an “early alpha” version. I assume the current functionality is just a small subset of what Google have in mind. Certainly Google have a lot of functionality available in various web apps, and if they could pull all of that together using Google+ as a social layer the potential is huge. They’ve done a good job of incorporating their Picasa photo sharing app into Google+, for example. Google chat has been incorporated well, including a great group video chat called “hangouts”. And there’s plenty more to come, obviously. Google Calendar will make a great version of Facebook’s “events” functionality. I’m sure there’s a lot of potential for a social layer over Google docs. Could Google sites provide the basis for an equivalent of Facebook’s “pages”?

I see a lot of potential for Google+ and I’m quite excited to see where Google take it. Google+ has been billed as a Facebook killer. I don’t see a mass migration from Facebook anytime soon, but if I were Twitter I’d be worried.

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2 comments

  1. Hey Steve,

    Nice post. It’s funny – as primarily a facebook user, rather than twitter, I hadn’t quite picked up on the asymmetry aspect… I must explore some more.

    Something that really frustrates me is people’s categorizing of Wave… certainly as I see it it had no intention of being a social network. It was a replacement for e-mail first and foremost, and one of the best innovations in internet communication I’ve seen! Going back to e-mail these days it feels clunky and slow – when me and the boys from the wedding band were all on there, live communicating was so intuitive. As a corporate communications protocol it was a brilliant mix of mail, forum, and chat… the only shame is that people weren’t able to migrate before google mysteriously pulled the plug!

    But there we go… Anyway, we’re still having fun on g+, so that’s all good.

  2. [...] and that some aspects of the service are a bit rough around the edges. So, as a follow-on to my first thoughts post, and not intended as criticism in any way, here are just a few things that I think need to [...]

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