I’ve now had G+ for about 24 hours. I can’t say that I have a unified impression quite yet. Like many new G+ers, I’ve been exploring and tweeting about my impressions as I read others tweeting and opining in every major publication and online site.
Some like Fred Stutzman and Farad Manjoo wonder what need G+ fulfills that isn’t already done pretty well but some other site (read Facebook). While I respect Fred and Farad, I know that same question was asked about Friendster (another dating site), Orkut (all the cool kids are running here — then they all ran away), MySpace (which sold for fractions of a penny on the dollars last paid just as G+ was opening up), and even Facebook.
But then I’m not as euphoric as say Tim Wu, who I also respect, who tweets “Using Google+ is like going to heaven and watching your friends slowly appear one by one.” There is fun to reconnecting once again and G+ does make discovery fun and easy. Dan Gillmor wryly observes “I imagine there are some interesting meetings going on at Facebook this week…” Dan expands on his impressions at the Guardian in “A B+ for the beta Google+” where he is a bit more nuanced but still well pleased with G+.
My instinct is to reserve judgement on G+ but to look a little at the features and interface and interactions without worrying too much if G+ will be like one of those never populated Chinese housing projects.
Jacob Kramer-Duffield offers a look at G+ under a microscope that reviews and weighs in on much and the plus and minus of G+ in a very smart way.
First big win is HangOuts. If I had just overpaid for Skype, I’d be worried. I’d start the therapy sessions now. I’d be framing my successes to explain to my investors why I shouldn’t be sent out to pasture. If I had just sold Skype (again), I’d be breaking out the bubbly. I’d be saying “Whew! Just missed that bullet.” Hangout after just a few brief uses is so far superior to Skype that they look and feel decades apart. The multi-site conferencing and YouTube integration are both great wins for G+.
Circles – Wow! This really makes setting up groups simple and fun and easy to understand. Contrast that to Facebook’s attempts at groups. As much as we all said we wanted groups, we hardly used them. Too many friends already to sort, too complicated of interface, general clunkiness. G+ bests Facebook in every way. It helps that you are building groups, Circles, as you add friends so there’s no catchup time involved.
Circles not only makes building and managing groups easy and thanks to HTML5 beautiful and highly interactive, but they/it also make viewing activity streams in different context and controlling over-sharing. Both quite nicely done and strongly aligned with the easy to read and understand G+ privacy policies.
Despite the few clumsily presented privacy and notification, G+ is so far ahead of previous Google offerings — Buzz and Wave — and Facebook that I have to praise G+ for dealing with some tough problems smartly. I do wish that the default for notifications wasn’t email for almost everything! One of my first acts was to chase down the Notifications options and turn them all OFF. (To turn OFF notifications. Got to your name in the upper right. then to Account Settings. Then select Google+ Then turn ‘em OFF). Google has already fixed the one privacy issue that was raised today within a few hours. Nice work. Compare to say Microsoft or Facebook.
Mobile is very nice. I can’t for the life of me figure out why the Facebook app on the iPhone sucks so bad. As moblie is the obvious direction for communications in general and for social networking in particular. Even as I was comparing the G+ Web app to the native Facebook app, the Facebook app blew up. A regular annoyance. On the other hand, the G+ Web app looks nice and thanks to HTML5 (I’m guessing) works smoothly and simply. I can only imagine how cool the native Android app will be.
I don’t get Sparks. It looks like Google Alerts with some sharing added. Why? Is it a stand in for Favorites? Is it cool engineering that I don’t yet understand? To side with Farad and Fred, what problem does Sparks solve? If you have ideas, let me know.
Overall, G+ is a giant step in the direction of an integrated activity stream that I’ve been seeking to help me with #noemail.
Two additions –
G+ doesn’t play as well with Facebook or Twitter as I would like, but luckily there’s “Extended Share for Google Plus” a great extension that works wonderfully. +1 for that.
As I was writing this, Google also rolled out a nice new look and some improvements for Google Calendar. They’ve been busy at the Googleplex and with good results.
Extra: Mark Zuckerberg hints that the “awesome announcement” scheduled for Wednesday July 6 at 10 a.m. PDT (1 p.m. EDT) at Facebook’s Palo Alto headquarters will be about in Face video conferencing from Skype and Facebook. Others say it’s an iPad app.