Google Pluses and Minuses – What Works & What’s Missing with Google+
Google’s latest offering in the social networking arena – Google+ (also known as Google Plus) has now been out for over a month and already they have surpassed over 25 million registered users! To put this in perspective, know that Facebook took 3 years to reach this goal.
Google’s failure to effectively launch Google Buzz and Google Wave a few years ago, made this new foray into social networking seem like a monumental task, but it looks like this is one of their best efforts yet.
The company may have finally figured out how to do social right; their key mantra being: you don’t have to share your content with everyone. Instead they expect content to be targetted to specific contacts and groups of people.
I especially love when companies invent something new in social networking… For example, I love that Google+ has things called Circles, Hangouts and Sparks. They have not only introduced new terminology, but also new functionality along with a new way to perceiving or using similar features.
I think Google has made a serious come back. Their design and UI suggests they have put much thought into being truly social and away from the typical algorithmic products that they previously put out.
I have described my thoughts on some less obvious features that are awesome, and also what might be missing in Google+. Read my full article on WhatsYourTech or scroll below:
- The notify feature is pretty awesome. It allows you to send an email through the system to people in selected circles. It preserves the email address but it can get annoying when other people constantly send you emails about their posts. Good way to bring attention to important stuff but could easily turn into spam.
- Also love that when you block somebody on Google+, it really gets rid of the bugger. Blocked users wont be able to creep you at all… comes in very handy I tell you.
- The picture-tagging feature is also cool. Its no different than Facebook, sort of nostalgic almost, although I fear that photos people tag you in publicly may start cropping up in places you didn’t want them to. Such as Google Search results, or once of your other circle’s feed. This can be scary because at the very least you want to be able to control if not block that to some extent. I think this is something Google needs to think about, they need to put control back in the user’s hands before it becomes an issue.
- Just like any other social network, you will often see content shared and re-shared by multiple people in your circles, but for some reason it is a bit morein-your-face on Google+. In Twitter’s case, they limit your chars, so you can easily skim over tweets in your stream. In Facebook’s case, you naturally gravitate towards things posted by “friends” or people you know well. With Google+ there is no such luxury. You can’t skim over content easily enough and there is no filter feature (yet) to bubble up content from the most important people in your circle to the top. I think there are many ways to solve this problem of too much duplicate content. One solution is to allow the system to detect what content you as the user may have already consumed. So if you have clicked on a link from Friend A and Friend B has shared the same content, it might make sense to filter out the duplicate content from Friend B in your viewing stream. And you know what? They could easily leave it up to the user to turn on or off. Now that would be pretty intelligent.
- Another thing that confuses me is the sharing with circles. If I share a post “publicly”, then what does the option of sharing it with other circles do for me? How is that different? Doesn’t sharing publicly = sharing with everyone, both in your circles and also those that are not in your circle? I don’t understand. Google should clarify this.
- Next is my pet peeve of not having vanity URLs or some other kind of identifier. It is very difficult for people to find you on any platform, especially mass-market social sites simply based on your name. I am fortunate that there aren’t too many ‘Amrita Mathurs’ in the world. But what if your name was John Smith – how it one supposed to find you? Google needs to correct this ASAP. I know their current model is to drive interactions through friends and friends of friends, and hence the function of having a unique identifier isn’t as prominent; but already people that want to be ahead of the curve are having a hard time dealing with this.
My big ideas:
- In their next major iteration, if they could incorporate some Google Wave like features (perhaps housed within Google hangouts), wherein people can share and group-edit stuff like a document for example – might be pretty swell. For example, you could share the document either publicly or with specific circles or contacts – then proceed to collaborate to edit/update this document. This would allow Google+ to hugely differentiate themselves while taking ‘social networking’ to a whole new level. The easy way to do it would be to couple hangouts with the existing Google docs, and not reinvent the wheel. Some straight-forward tight integration will do the trick. Move over Facebook?!
- My other big suggestion for Google is that they release Google+ for iPad. They’re loosing a huge market by not jumping on it ASAP. I bet their active usage numbers and time-on-site will go up dramatically if they release one. An already interactive Google+ will become more interactive and intuitive by leveraging the iPad’s touch technology and beautiful backlit screen. Just imagine the possibilities!
- The Android integration is a little scary, but it will help set it apart. I love Apple… but there is no social network to go with the platform (I don’t quite count Ping as a serious social network). So with full integration, Google+ might catapult Android into the lead, as well as continue to work as a differentiator from other social networks.
I’d like to end this post by trying to describe why I became an early fan of Google+.
It was really simple for me actually. Google+ allowed me to speak my mind with writing a full article of post, just like on twitter, but better because there is no character limit. As well, I am able to share any type of content – text, photo, video etc without using some third party service like twitpic or bit.ly.
Next, it has a huge one-up from Facebook because they have tackled the privacy and friend segmentation challenge right off the bat. Google goes the distance by saying “For us, privacy isn’t buried six panels deep,”. In fact I’ve got to say, I was never thrilled by Facebook’s model at all. I just got on it recently, only because I was missing out on event invites from friends and birthday reminders. With Google+, managing my contact list and content-permissions doesn’t seem like a chore anymore!
Not to mention Google+ seems to be more intuitive and flows a bit more like our brains naturally do. I appreciate structure, but Facebook seems to have too much of it.
Fluidity of functionality is key to any network’s existence and growth, and I feel like Google+ has built that in to their core.
In any case, I am not the only one excited by Google+. 25 million other users from around the world have adopted it. Of course Gmail penetration has been key in this process, but they are already nearing the tipping point of 15% market penetration, which means very soon, it is going to snow ball.
In a recent survey conducted by ComScore, about 23% of respondents said that they are going to completely abandon Facebook in lieu of Google+. That’s huge!
Furthermore, I can’t wait for the Google API to come out. It would be nice to hook Google+ up to my website and other services. It is all about being a two-way street after all. Google’s Joseph Smarr said that they are looking forward to working with good agile partners to build cool social experiences.
Sounds like that is exactly what we need. A big +1 for them, as I am sure that in the coming months, Google is going to become a force to reckon within the realm of social networking. It is finally their time.
P.S. – Let’s keep in touch on Google+, here is my profile!