Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Googlepuss

Well, I've been on Google+ for just about 24 hours now, thanks to a friend who works there. I think that's the right time to post initial impressions.
Googleplus... Googleplus... Googleplus!

  1. xkcd was totally correct with their analysis.
  2. It's good. Clean, simple, and obvious, just what you expect from Google. In fact, it's simpler to use than most of their offerings like Wave or Docs or even Blogger. 
  3. It looks a lot like Facebook, but only at first glance. Then again, Facebook looks a lot like Orkut. I expect there's only so many ways to display a list of messages from friends with comments attached. 
  4. It feels private and secure. It takes just enough effort (one click-drag) to add people into your circles that it's not something you can do accidentally. You might choose the wrong circles to post to, but that's down to you.
  5. You can explicitly prevent 'resharing' or disable comments on a per-message basis. That's pretty much the opposite of Facebook, which uses almost everything you say as an opportunity to start a discussion with everyone you know. Disabling reshare is good for those semi-private things you don't want accidentally spread around by well-meaning friends. And disabling comments becomes important if you've got thousands of readers and controversial topics, like a news service or pop star.
  6. The Beta state of the software is still quite apparent. Functions and comments sometimes disappear for half and hour, and then come back again with an expression of  "What? I was resting my eyes! What?". The drag-and-drop of people to my circles broke at once point, but a reload fixed it. There's a couple of missing things, like sorting circles. All very minor surface stuff. But you can feel the stability of the underlying code. At no point was I confused about what was going on.
  7. Even in Beta, it's remarkably forgiving. I was re-arranging my circles and made a big mistake: I removed people from the old circle first. Since that was the only circle they were in, and the interface only lists people currently in your circles, I lost them. (Add to the new circle first!) However, a little later, the unattached names all turned up in the 'suggested friends' list, so I unexpectedly got them back.
Mostly, the impression is that Social Networking has finally grown up a little. I expect Facebook will continue to reign amongst drunken college students who assume that every comment that falls from their self-centered lips needs to be broadcast to the entire universe as quickly as possible. 

But us slightly older farts want to be able to bitch about our work to our friends. (And talk about that other job we're going for.) We need to be able to carry on secret affairs and double-lives. We don't need to make snide comments about people to their face under the guise of a general post about our day. A mature social network needs to support mature relationships, and Google+ tries very hard to do that with it's 'Circles'.

In the end, I expect there's room for both. Google+ will make social networking a useful business function, while Facebook continues to hold onto their original 20-something high disposable income Farmville demographic. In fact, this separation might be good for both of them, so long as they learn to co-exist. Multiple players legitimize a market, but a war isn't good for anyone.


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