Five Things I Really Like about Google+

July 1, 2011 @ 12:20 pm | Filed under:

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. . (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.

Like this:

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.

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16 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Lucho says:

    Nice!, do you have an invitation? I would like to test it. Thanks!

  2. Allison says:

    I’ve been trying to figure out how to get this!

    Even more eager to having read your review. On twitter I read a tweet from someone asking to be invited. Is that how it works?

  3. Melissa Wiley says:

    Alas, I don’t have any invitations yet! I got one from a friend.

  4. feebeeglee says:

    I’m ready. Just trying to score an invite.

  5. Michele Q. says:

    Sounds likes fun. I applied for an invite earlier this week. Hopefully it won’t take too long. 🙂

  6. Sarah Stevenson (aquafortis) says:

    Thanks for the run-down! I was wondering if anyone I knew had tried it. Of course, I need another online Thing like I need a hole in my head, but hey, Google already has its tentacles in most of the rest of my online life… 🙂

  7. MelanieB says:

    Thanks so much for the review, Lissa. My brother sent me an invitation, which I ignored since I didn’t know what it was and didn’t have time to explore. I don’t need another online thing, but I would like to migrate away from Facebook. I’ve been saying forever that if someone comes up with a truly viable competition for Facebook I’d be there. But as you say viable for me means all my friends and family would be willing to migrate. Still, it sounds like it might be worth while to put forth a little effort towards making that happen.

  8. Ellie says:

    Gah, now I need to go see if my google profile is still private like it’s supposed to be … Thanks for the heads up!

  9. adie says:

    Well I don’t know. It seems a bit too much for me personally. I like being able to click one button and there is my wall nice and simple. I don’t really have time for circles and things. Also friends and family are very separate for me more so than Google-plus allows.FB fulfills the function I require of it – a little light chat, kind of like a bush telegraph.

  10. Melissa Wiley says:

    The one-click wall exists on G+, just with a different name. It seems simpler, more streamlined to me than FB. “Posts” shows everything I’ve written; Home shows everything my friends have written.

    On FB I am forever clicking through to my friends’ lists—I want to catch up with filtered small groups instead of everyone all at once. Comics friends, kidlit friends, homeschooling friends, family, school friends, local friends, etc. So for me the Circles concept is a solution to the thing that maddens me on FB—all that extra clickery. (And the setup is so easy and intuitive–you drag a friend’s name into an actual circle icon.)

  11. Amy C. says:

    So if enough of your friends adopt Google+, do you think you’re likely to drop Facebook for G+, or will you end up hanging on to both and double-posting a lot of stuff? Or can you see using the two platforms for different purposes (for example, only connecting to certain categories of people on Facebook and other categories on G+)? I’m asking as a non-user . . . I’m a spousebooker (which means I’ve procrastinated about starting my own FB account, so I read my dh’s page and have asked him to connect with a few friends just for my benefit, and once in a blue moon I’ll ask him to comment on my behalf), and I’m wondering if I should just jump into G+ and hope everyone else does too, or if it’s still worth it to join FB as a means of sorting my worlds. Thoughts?

  12. Melissa Wiley says:

    Very good questions, Amy. I can’t imagine that EVERYONE I like to keep in touch with on FB is going to migrate to Google+, so I’ll be there still—which means, yes, either cross-posting or letting G+ take on its own conversational shape.

    It’s entirely possible that in three years we’ll all have gradually migrated to G+ and FB will become MySpace-ish, but I think it’s equally possible that people try out G+ and say “yeah it’s cool, but I’m already settled in at FB” and G+ won’t take off with a large chunk of users.

    If Google+ adds ads—and it would surprise me if they DON’T, sooner or later—it’ll lose some of its nice uncluttered appeal.

  13. Melissa Wiley says:

    Saturday morning update:

    Another major like: DATA LIBERATION—you can download all your posts, pictures, comments, etc.

    @Adie, after playing with it some more, I do miss the “post on your wall” aspect of FB—where people can post public messages on someone else’s wall. You can post a message for only a single person to see, or a small group, but your “wall” (the G+ equiv) only shows your own posts.

    And it’s still buggy—I’m not seeing some people’s updates in various circles.

  14. MelanieB says:

    Evidently I waited too long to click on my invite and all the spaces were filled. So I put my name on the wait list. But my husband, sister, mother, and brother are all on. 🙁

  15. Melissa Wiley says:

    Melanie, you’ll get in. I had to keep checking back for a few hours before I got through, and I’m hearing the same thing from others. In the meantime, you might want to create your Google profile—you’ll need it as soon as you’re in + anyway.

  16. Kathryn says:

    Googling Google+ (!!!) seems to suggest they got overloaded and are shutting down invites – but if you can still send me one, please do!