The Internet is pretty excited about Google’s newest attempt to enter the social media realm. After disappointing experiences with Google Wave and Buzz, many were skeptic about the search giant’s ability to make something that would actually work in an intuitive way. After some hours exploring Google+ my opinion is that this time Google got it right. There are some interface issues, features that are missing and that one could expect to be already integrated but, overall, the user experience is great and the system doesn’t feel buggy at all. At the moment I am writing this post Google+ invitations are still unavailable, but they are rolling out steadily and you can request your invite here if you haven’t already: Google+ invites.
Fighting Facebook with Circles
The Google+ team has been listening to what the main complaints about Facebook are: privacy concerns or the Kafkaesque venture of organizing your “friends” into different lists, just to name a few. Google+’s solution for this is called Circles, something that reminds me of the Diaspora* project but, unlike the open source project, allows you to add one contact to several circles, which replicates in a better way the relationships we all have.
These “Circles,” and the way you organize them, will be the basis of your experience when on Google+. Good organization will allow you to have a better experience and don’t worry, your contacts will never know in what circle you put them in.
Remember how you have a video chat with lots of people on Google Wave? On Google+ you can do that too with a major difference: it actually works. Up to 10 people can join a Hangout to talk, text chat and share videos. I am sure that other types of media and features will be added (Soundcloud comes to mind as well as Google’s own Calendar) making the Hangout not only a social space but a working space as well.
The Android factor: Huddle and Instant Upload
As soon as I got my Google+ invite (courtesy of my partner in life and everything geek,Donna Winter), I downloaded the Android application and was immediately hooked. The user interface is clean and it brings with it “Huddle” which seems to be Google’s attempt to take on RIM’s BBM. With 500,000 Android devices being activated every day“Huddle” has the potential to become the preferred instant messaging service for millions of users. The Google+ team didn’t stop here and seems to understand how mobile plays a huge role in our life. Instant upload is a hassle free sharing feature that does exactly what it’s name says: Take a picture or shoot a video with your Android device and it will be immediately uploaded to a private album on your Google+ account. You can then edit the caption and share with your circles if you wish. What I’m missing here is seamless integration with YouTube, meaning that I would like to have an option to upload the videos straight to my YouTube account via Google+ but I expect to see this happening in the near future.
So, is it all good on Google+ and will it kill Facebook?
The answer clearly is no and maybe. There is much to be done and some of the options in Google+ don’t make much sense right now. One of those options is the introduction of something that they are calling “Sparks.”
“Sparks” are based on search keywords but they are not a part of your stream and that’s a problem. If you’re interested in a certain subject the probabilities that you want to know what is happening are surely high. What I would really like to see is total and seamless integration of my Google Reader feed within my stream but, for this to happen, Google+ has to quit bumping posts to the top with every comment that is made on them. This is something that is really annoying since it doesn’t allow for new content to be discovered.
To be a Facebook contender Google+ has to attract developers able to create the kind of applications that have users hooked on Facebook and should work on the user’s desktop and mobile devices, then find a way to monetize the applications. This is a big challenge but it brings with it a lot of creative opportunities.
Sharing on other social networks is also mandatory: if Google+ wants to win this war it has to allow users to share from their desktop or mobile, their updates with other social networks and applications, and become the social media center for its users. There is an extension already available for Chrome but it forces you to post and then share to Twitter and/or Facebook.
There is a lot to be done to make Google+ THE social network but Google started on the right foot. In my opinion the most appealing features are the ones that allow you to share your mobile life in a very easy and transparent way. I am sure that we will see many Android developers integrating Google+ with their applications and others that will make sharing to other social networks from within Google+ a seamless experience.
Find me on Google+ and please leave your thoughts in the comments.
Originally posted on JUNE 30, 2011 @ The Zargon