Google+ is, as I’m sure you’ve heard by now, YET ANOTHER SOCIAL NETWORK. It’s Facebook, Google-style: a way to see status updates, links, photos, and videos shared by people you know. I’m laughing as I write this, because I know a lot of people who avoid Facebook like the plague, and many others who only put up with its many annoyances for the sake of direct daily contact with family and close friends.
What on earth, you may be thinking, do we need with another social network?
Well, it seems Google is going to try to convince us their version is better than the others. Is it? Too soon to say, but it has potential. Of course, there’s a bit of a vicious circle at work in the startup phase of any social network: the network is only satisfactory if enough users come on board. Right now, in this early rollout phase, not many folks are there, so it’s a pretty quiet place. But all morning new faces have been popping up on my notifications page. The early adopters are coming.
Here are five things I like about it so far:
1) Clean, simple, uncluttered layout.
No ads! The home page has three columns: on the left, a list of your Circles (more on those in a second); on the right, something similar to Facebook’s Friends sidebar, but Google+ shows profile icons only, not names; and in the center, the equivalent of Facebook’s News Feed—the status updates & links shared by people in your Circles. There are no surprises there; what I like is the simplicity.
2) Fast, easy access to custom-tailored update feeds.
On Facebook, if I want to see what my college friends are up to, I have to click a minimum of three times to get to the screen I want. On Google+, it’s one click from the home page. One easy click—the list of Circles is right there in the left sidebar, as I mentioned above. A “Circle” is the same thing as a Friends list on Facebook—but Google+ seems to recognize that keeping in touch with groups of friends is one of the main reasons people use social networks in the first place. That is, Google+ puts a priority on grouping. You sort your Google+ “friends” into Circles, and you can choose easily between a single Circle (like if you want to see Family updates only) or your entire “Stream”—updates from everyone in all your circles, equivalent to Facebook’s News Feed. The hassle of getting to my individual Facebook friends’ lists is my second-biggest Facebook complaint (their privacy issues are the biggest), so this easy Circles function has huge appeal for me.
3) Easy to decide who sees what.
Sometimes you want to post an update for the whole world to see. Other times, it’s just meant for your family. Or your work friends. Or the small group of people you know who may appreciate a link about a rare flavor of Mentos. Google+ makes custom-targeting of your own updates very quick and easy.
4) No pesky game updates!
For now, at least.
5) Better profile page.
When you click to someone’s Google+ profile, you’ll see tabs at the top:
Posts are like Facebook status updates.
About is your info page, your Google+ Profile. As far as I can tell, this is the same thing as the Google Profile you may already have, if you have a gmail account. Here’s mine, for example. (Even if you don’t have gmail, you may have set up a Google profile in order to log into certain sites.)
If you do have a Google Profile, you may want to give it some attention this week—Google seems to be stepping up Profile visibility, not just via Google+ but also the new “+1” feature you’ll see on Google search pages and other sites from now on. When you plus-one a site, that’s like Facebook-liking it. Your +1 endorsement will show up on Google searches.
This is from a browser that was logged into Scott’s gmail account. You can see that both he (the kittyfrog) and I have +1’d the site in question.
Whether you’re sharing your +1’s or not, people you know might be looking up your Google Profile as they set up their own Google+ accounts, so that’s why I’m saying it’s a good idea to take a look at your profile and see what’s being shown to the world. One particularly nice feature is that you can view your profile the way others see it, to make sure you’re revealing only the information you wish to.
Bottom line: whether you climb on the Google+ bandwagon or not, people are probably going to be viewing your Google Profile!
As for Google+, will I be sticking with it? Well, in all seriousness, that depends entirely on whether a critical mass of my friends and family climb on board. If you all stay on Facebook, so will I—because I’m there to see you, after all.
But for now, one day in, I can say that Google+ is behaving like the Facebook I wish I had.