Yesterday I logged into Google+ and immediately became lost. I spent about five minutes playing around and then left.
Today I came back and dropped an hour and a half playing with it.
Here is what I found, and why I love it:
Ok, I’m a blogger and I want Google to send us hits. This means I created a Google Profile with links, pictures, and a biography. With that instantly linked to Google+, I am saved the trouble of having to re-create a new personal profile.
Creating a new account on every freaking website is the slavery of the web. The same info, the same profile pic, hopefully the same password, multiplied across 1,000 sites.
Friends via Email
It is very likely that I have emailed anyone I will want to friend in a social network. With my profile auto-linked, my email contacts are auto-linked too. They are not yet my Google+ friends, but they are a quick drag-n-drop away.
It’s been super easy to get going.
But, on a side note, the whole circles thing in Google+ is still weird. I have over 1,800 friends in Facebook (part business, part personal) and sorting them into groups is a daunting task. Moving them into the Google+ circles means sorting out many 100s of affiliate friends. The circles feature is as easy as it gets but still involves 100s of actions by the user.
This is definitely something I expect/pray a data engineering company like Google to fix.
I think Google learned their lesson with Buzz. As Gina Trapani puts it:
Don’t mess with the Gmail inbox. When Buzz invaded my Gmail inbox with a flood of social-networky conversations, my first instinct was “Turn it off!”
First step complete (don’t mess with successful products). Second step, make privacy easy. I think they have done that with circles, and despite my complaining above, it works really well. Every friend you add has to be sorted into a circle, then when you share information you have to specify which circles it goes out to (with “all” being an option).
It’s kinda amazing in its simplicity, but maybe that’s all it takes when privacy is truly “built-in”.
I guess we should also say that circles is an obvious steal from Diaspora, although they kinda deserve that since they called it the annoying “aspects”.
You really can’t launch a social network without having mobile on day one. Google seems to have done that with all the positive buzz around their mobile site. It’s not an app but Google does have the best web apps of anyone on the market.
I haven’t tried this feature yet but will soon. Early thoughts on it are welcome.
Lastly, Google+ has this feature called sparks. It’s an obvious rip-off of Facebook’s likes and interests features, but with an interesting twist.
When you perform a search on one of your “sparks” (mine being “surfing”) up pops the latest news from Google News. If one were in Facebook the results would be populated with random people named surfing, groups about surfing, and web content they have stolen/imported into Facebook. All part of Facebook’s plan to re-create the web inside their network so we never leave the site.
I see this difference as potentially providing Google with a big advantage over Facebook.
Think about how often you use the suite of Google tools (news, docs, finance, mail, calendar) and how incredibly useful they are for productivity, work, and research. If Google can continue to incorporate these tools into Google+ then they can overcome Facebook’s biggest problem: the social network is a huge waste of time.
That would so +1 Facebook.