It’s interesting that Google Buzz, which aimed for Twitter-like simplicity was panned universally (for privacy issues, not for the UI or functionality, though), while a fairly complex Facebook-like social networking platform like Google+ has generally opened to very warm and fuzzy reactions. From me too!
While I haven’t even scratched the surface of Google+, I’d love to share my initial thoughts on my experience so far.
1. The first thing that strikes me on a very, very positive note on Google+ is the UI. It is sparse, much like Twitter, but with a lot of options laid out very simply…unlike Facebook. As I had tweeted about it, all this reminds me of Apple-like simplicity and sparse’ness. It made sense when I came to know that an Apple UI guy is behind Google+ UI too – Andy Hertzfeld. This is a fantastic move since it is bound to create very positive first impressions considering Facebook (the ruling leader of social networking) is known for clunky and labyrinthineÂ details.
2. The related question – is that positive first impression enough for people to start spending time in populating yet another social network after doing so painstakingly on Facebook? The answer would depend entirely on Google rolling out Google+ to more and more people (how about all of them?) soonest. A social networking platform is nothing but people and if there are only limited people on a social network, it may eventually fade away from public memory. The more you see your friends, peers, colleagues and acquaintances on Google+, the more likely you’ll start using it often.
3. The ‘Find People’ option on Google+ works almost like Twitter’s search option on the top of its web UI. Almost. It searches for people, not for topics/themes. Yet. This is a good start, however. As I said earlier, while it may lack the serendipitousÂ discovery of content, it helps as a social network intended to connect people. If you were looking for content-based connection, Twitter is still the place to go, even though it is often mistaken for a social networking platform when it clearly is not.
4. Google+ masterstroke, quite simply, is integrating messages/responses count in the Google bar on top of all Google properties. It is an annoying shade of black on most properties (except Gmail) though. But it increases stickiness tremendously. Do remember to change your settings to not let Google+ send you an email for all updates – it can get painfully bothersome.
5. The ‘Photos from your phone’ option in Photos is clever. Good for Android too, obviously.
6. The visual brilliance of Circles is what everybody is talking about, but while it does look wonderful, it seems a bit kiddish to me. But yes, having tried arranging people in my own groups on Facebook, this is a huge relief. It also helps that Google displays some sense of humor in the descriptions. Family Circle, for instance, has this for description: ‘Your close and extended family, with as many or as few in-laws as you want.’
7. The question that most/many seem to be asking: What happens when I drop someone in a circle? The immediate answer is simply, ‘They fall inside the circle’. LOL, I know. But I believe we have become too concerned about what happens to others than our own self while organizing our networks. Consider this: When I add someone’s name in my hardbound telephone directory, do I wonder if they know I have entered their name? No, telephone directory is not a social network, but the point simply is that Circles is for you to organize your network to make it interestingly manageable. If they get an invite from your action of dropping them into a circle…or them coming to know that you have dropped them into ‘Family’ when you have not yet professed your love to that person…or someone getting offended that you dropped them into ‘Acquaintances’ because they thought they were close to you and the description for acquaintances happens to be ‘A good place to stick people you’ve met but aren’t particularly close to’…these are existential worries, at best.
I’m sure we’ll know the impact of dropping people in Circles very soon – Google is bound to explain that to us in beautifully crafted videos on YouTube. If it was like Facebook – where I add people to some self-created group for my own network manageability – this would cease to be of significant interest. If it was like Twitter Lists – where I make a social statement by arranging my network – this may catch on beautifully because the latter is a social activity.
People in your circles (but not the name of the circle) will appear to others on your Google Profile, unless you choose not to display that information.
And Google Accounts settings’ Profile and Privacy page says this,
Network Visibility: You can control which people appear on your profile. Note that circle names are never revealed.
So, not like Twitter Lists, I presume.
Google’s Help pages also says this about this adding-people-into-Circles business. The latter part of this statement is a bit worrying; privacy alert, perhaps?
When someone adds you to a circle, it won’t give them additional access to your profile information. It may however make it easier for that person to take actions that generate notifications for you–like commenting on your posts or sharing with you directly.
8. This Google Hangout (using a webcam) is an interesting feature. I see a lot of potential that may eventually, possibly bother Cisco and SlideShare.
9. Have you seen the ‘Send Feedback’ button on the bottom of Google+? Brilliantly smart!!
10. Under Google+ Settings, the ‘Data Liberation‘ section is liberatingly refreshing!
On Google+ taking over Facebook and Twitter…on brands starting Google+ profiles…on how journalists, PR professionals, accountants, lawyers, plumbers and male hospital support staff can make best use of Google+ and other related topics, I’m sure you’ll have enough and more Mashable articles very soon. Wait for them.