Google+ : First Impressions

First Impressions – Google+

The introduction of a social network with so much excitement is a strange one. Unlike other social platforms that have grown organically from an ‘indy’ nature, Google+ has everyone comparing it to everything else from the start.

What is Google+?

Google+ is Googles attempt at building a social network, to take on the all-conquering Facebook, as well as the other players in the space. Read on!

Background: Different strategies: Google, Facebook and Twitter

Google:

Google has been around for quite some time, and amassed some complex product assets. Youtube, Picasa, BlogSpot, Google Docs, along with Android and ChromeOS (to a lesser extent, yet?).  On their own these stand up with some serious capability. For some time, these assets have been pretty independent of each other. It looks as if Google+ is going to be the bridge between all these assets.

Facebook:

Facebook has gone about its development from the other way. Build a platform of connections (people), then add similar features (essentially products) – photos, chat, messaging, video, developer API’s, and so on. While Facebook may have the better ‘network of friends’, it lags Google in maturity of similar add-on products.

Twitter:

The little cousin (kinda) who has a great roll in connecting people who don’t necessarily know each other. Great as a research platform to follow those who are experts in particular fields, keep up to date with news, and provide insight and access to public figures in a simple tool. “Twitter is the medium between a blog and a person” – also a great tool to let ‘followers’ know about an article or post, without the overhead of email comms. Twitter, I would assume, have the Keep It Simple Stupid principle at its core.

LinkedIn:

If¬†you believe hype, the next big thing. It’s your online platform to connect to professionals and business. It also allows for your work history, recommendations ¬†and a playground for (lazy or modern?) job recruiters.

Of course there are many others. FourSquare, MySpace, LastFM, Digg, Reddedit, Yammer, and so on. All have their own niche, but all have elements that are under attack from Google+.

Google+ looks to bring some functionality from almost everyone to one platform – where people are already hanging out. Google+ looks to be the last piece of the puzzle to really set up a strong framework for the future.

Why Get Involved?

If one platform could do everything and make it easy, why not? Some potential blockers – mainstream user adoption, privacy concerns, learning something new, or not needing bit of everything – Facebook is enough.

Facebook is the big player Google is picking a fight with. Time spent on Google+ is time not spent on Facebook or others. Right now there is no advertising on Google+, but that will not stay the same. Adwords is the crazy money spinner for Google, and unless Google are crazy, it will be coming soon.

Just because I use Facebook, doesn’t mean I like it.

Facebook cop it with regards to privacy and intellectual property ownership. As an amature photographer, I was seeing my Picasa photos downloaded and turning up at high quality on Facebook. This pissed me off, somewhat, and I was always reluctant to upload to Facebook due to the ownership of images Рgiving Facebook permission to do whatever it likes. As a result, (and not wanting to get in a shitfight with friends about copyright) I started uploading low resolution versions to Facebook, while keeping the high-res versions elsewhere (picasa /personal site). But, it’s always been with reluctance. This still is a sticking point for me. Another beef with Facebook is their ‘ask for forgiveness, not permission’ practice. Implement new features or policy, and only when it goes ass-up gives the ‘sorry’ play.

In addition, the Advertising on Facebook is terrible. Seems to be populated with trashy trash – pyramid schemes and general scams. In all honesty, I think it really reflects poorly on Facebook. Google at least will take a moral stance on who they take money from.

I would leave Facebook without any reservations.

Sorry Twitter…

I see plenty of ‘following’ potential from twitter in Google+. I like Twitter, put my stupid thoughts up, use it to follow hashtags (i.e. TV shows / sports) and to track who I find interesting. But, seems Google+ is looking at borrowing some of this functionality..

It’s not that I don’t like Twitter, but why go there if I can get the most of the information from Google+. The only shortcoming is the #hashtag element to follow trends or a current topic.This would keep me going back to Twitter.

LinkedIn… who cares

I’m not going bang on about LinkedIn, but there is a large ‘work focus’ on Google+. I think LinkedIn must have concerns because Google+ is knocking at the door. The only thing I’ll miss is the ‘you know person x through person y and z’, and to a lesser extent, the recommendations (which I have never pursued). (EDIT: Yes you can)

Google+

I like Google. They seem like a well intentioned company, and this seems like a great ‘project’ to tie many comprehensive products together. Of course there are many things to come, but it seems like a massive leap in the right direction. While I type in Google Docs, I have my notifications bar above Рno need to jump around because it can all be in the one place.

My ‘Likes’

The fact there is so much tied in please me. It has potential to be the ‘one’ place, and not jumping from platform to platform. To single the great bits:

  • Connect with those who are not friends
    • Hello Twitter
  • Easily configure who sees what
    • The ‚ÄòView Profile As‚Äô is simple
    • Selecting who you post-to, or your audience, is at the core
  • Simplicity of the UI
    • User experience is not an after-thought
  • Tied in with Google
    • I spend so much time with Google, so it‚Äôs not a new place to go.
  • Plus Ones of Sites (Social Search results)
    • Hello Digg / Rededit
  • Black Google Notification Bar
    • Simple to get from the most common Google Assets.

What Would I like?

Of the missing, or need improvement, bits:

  • Developer API‚Äôs
  • App Support
    • Will surly come with developer API‚Äôs
  • YouTube integration for video
    • Not just a ‚Äòlink‚Äô, but integrated into video section of profile
  • Better Calendar integration
    • To create events similar to Facebook
  • Plus One management
    • Bookmarking or ‚Äòapproving‚Äô a site with a +1 is neat, but organising them would be nice.
  • Blogger
    • Doesn‚Äôt seem to be a part of it at all. If Twiiter is used for notification to followers about a blog, this makes sense to easily connect follower to a post.
  • #Hashtag concept
    • The ability to follow what people are talking about
  • Business Pages
    • It seems geared to individuals. This is okay, but I see a strength of Facebook is to facilitate business pages.
  • More USERS
    • Without the users, it won‚Äôt go anywhere. But I think this is only a matter of time.

Google+ plus Android?

Android is my mobile operating system of choice. There has been talk of a Facebook phone for a couple years now, but Android gives Google the chance to build a social network phone. From day 1, an Android Google+ client was available. It doesn’t do heaps yet, but I can see this having more and more integration as time goes on. The App is also not available on iPhone Рand this must have Apple looking in with interest.

Last thoughts

I have seen social networks come and go. There is, or was, an overwhelming feeling that Facebook is invincible, which it can’t be.

With Facebook, it was early adopters who firs got on board. Then it creeps in to more and more of society. Now, parents are jumping on and this is a topic of discussion within Facebook Рthe fact something that ‘was’ cool is now a standard. But, when people grow up and online, I’ll bet there are young people out there who don’t want to do what their parents are doing. Could Google+ fit that need? If a variety of social platforms are going to exist, they need to do things that are unique enough to justify jumping on board.

Right now, It looks like Google+ is trying to scoop up functionality from everywhere to become the one destination. I reckon they are in with a good shot, and I am happy to give them a go.

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