My Thoughts on Google+

Google has just suspended invitations to Google+ (or Google Plus) as they’ve maxed-out in just two days. A good start, but only time will tell whether it is really a Facebook ‘killer’ or not.

I am a big fan of Google, I like the way they innovate and experiment. For me, Google+ is a logical progression of the social network. I don’t want to share everything with everyone in my social network. Nor do I want to be included when someone I haven’t seen for 10 years wants to post their baby photos! Circles makes Google+ more complex than any other social network but once set-up it really helps prevent you spamming people with content they don’t want … an more importantly, vice-versa. With Circles you can use G+ a bit like Twitter and follow people who post content publicly.

Sparks is another great idea, it allows me to discover news on subjects I am interested in without having to rely on them being shared by friends/colleagues.

Hangouts is sublime, you can have multi-person video chat … and watch a Youtube video together! Considering there is no software installation, it is simply fantastic. Skype should be afraid.

Google didn’t rush out Google+, they’ve carefully integrated it into the more global Google user experience. If logged in, I get notifications wherever I am on a Google property (Gmail, Docs, Reader, etc.). The Android application is very mature and has clearly been worked on for some time. Sharing photos from your phone has never been easier (there is even an auto-sync option so all photos taken on an Android device are uploaded automatically on-line, ready for sharing – but not public)!

So what are the problems?

1/ The default setting for notifications is a little annoying … should you comment on a public post you could get 100’s of replies and suffer notification spam!
2/ If you have multiple email addresses for someone, they may appear several times in the suggestions for who to add to your circles. Google needs to work out how to identify duplicates and allow you to merge them … or at least see which e-mail address the suggestion is for!
3/ If people in one of your Circles don’t know each other, they may be surprised that strangers can comment on your post. I wonder whether an argument has broken out between people in someone’s Circle yet?! Could be awkward!
4/ Still a little bit of a ghost town if you’re not following the public figures, but I doubt that will last for long!

What could be next? Some obvious things that are missing:

– Games
– Applications / a way for external sites to integrate beyond ‘+1’
– More Youtube integration … Youtube is the main Google property not supporting G+ right now
– Allow businesses/public people to create profiles

I also wonder whether Google could/should make ‘invite only’ Circles where the people in a Circle have to accept an invitation to be part of it and receive shared content. I know you can mute posts and block a person entirely … but can you opt-out of a Circle only?

To conclude, I really like where Google+ is going and hope it is a viable alternative to the voyeuristic Facebook!! I want a social network to benefit me and not be constantly worried about posting something because not everyone in my network might understand or enjoy it. G+ addresses that need, but I am not sure the average Facebook user will be patient enough to use it properly.

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