On Friday I received an invitation from a colleague to Google+, Google’s new social network. I signed up and wanted to share my initial thoughts.
For those of you that haven’t heard, Google+ is the search powerhouse’s latest attempt at social networking. Google’s previous attempts have crashed and burned – wave and buzz both come to mind. Google+ so far seems to be better positioned to survive. Set up was pretty easy. I created a profile, uploaded a picture, and sent off invitations to friends who requested them.
What’s the same/what’s different Google+ appears to be an amalgam of Facebook and Twitter in that you can do all the usual social media stuff (status updates, pics, likes, etc) with your friends and colleagues, but you can also follow people or add them to any of your ‘circles’ without having to ask permission. This is not only for the famous, like Mark Zuckerberg, but any hipster who’s bothered to sign up and create a profile. You can block unwanted followers, but that is an extra step. Another difference from Facebook is that you have much less control on the privacy of your information even though it may seem you have more. Sure you can select which ‘circles’ see your posts, photos or updates, but what is visible to the whole world is already pretty broad. And if you don’t remember to change your sharing setting after each post, things could get ugly. My motto is assume whatever I post is visible to everyone, including my dead grandmother. Right now I only have links to 23 people. As this grows, we will see how things will work.
There are some new features in Google+. First of all, Google+ adds the ability to follow topics of interest to you through its Sparks application. Leveraging on its search and indexing power, Google will provide a continually updated stream of articles around your interest from the web. If you’ve ever subscribed to RSS feeds via Google Reader or My Yahoo!, these feeds will be familiar to you. It could also be considered similar to following hashtags(#) on Twitter though with a bit more curation in content. I added ‘Chicago’, ‘Cycling’, and a few others to test it out.
Google+ also has a feature called the Hangouts where you and your friends can go to video chat together using Google’s video and phone service as its base. Facebook and Skype are starting a similar service, though whether there is demand for either of these has yet to be seen.
There’s lots more to explore and I’ll update as appropriate. For now though while promising, I’m not sure that Google+ offers enough to make me want to switch out of Facebook, or even taking the time to update my status. While all my friends are on Facebook, only a few have made the jump to Google+. I can see maintaining two broad social networks for now, but at some point that could become burdensome. Add in the more specialized LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr and there just isn’t enough time for all of these.
linkage to other Google resources – email, photos, etc.
Sorting contacts into different ‘circles’
no farmville or other games – though I bet this will change
thin user base
no killer app to drive people to use it