Google+

Why yes, I do have a Google+ account. Why do you ask?

Actually, it is no big thing any more. Google are slowly allowing more people on as they ramp up their Facebook-beating service. I have been using it for a day now, and I like a lot of what I see. Unfortunately, the rest of what I see sort of mystifies me instead.

Google+ is a Facebook-like service, where people publish Facebook-like status updates to Facebook-like lists of friends, maybe attaching a link or a photo kind of like you do in another social media website whose name has temporarily slipped my mind. Basically, it’s Facebook with a slightly more up-to-date look.

Google+’s main UI difference is the concept of circles. These allow you to easily group your contacts (friends, workmates, family, etc) with a snazzy drag-and-drop interface. Then you can pick which circles get to see each thing you post. It is a lot easier to use than Facebook’s group concept and more offers more granularity without being to complex.

It is early days yet, but there are things that Facebook still does better. Posting a link is nowhere near is easy – Facebook allows you to easily customise the summary it displays where Google+ only allows you to delete the summary, not replace it with your own. Notifications are also slow to arrive, but Google+ does display notifications in the other Google apps (gmail, reader) which is very handy.

One thing I was disappointed not to see what any way to link content from other sites into my Google+ stream. For instance, there is no way to automatically post links to new articles on this blog to my Google+ stream. Facebook sort of allows this with its Notes feature. I don’t use Twitter, but that doesn’t seem to be included either. Google has Friend Connect for following blogs, but that doesn’t seem to be integrated into Google+ at all. It is all very strange.

I haven’t tried the Hangout feature since I don’t have a webcam on my main computer, but it looks like it could be useful if it works as advertised. The Sparks feature (similar to Google news but not limited to current events) seem great, but doesn’t really need to be part of Google+. It would be better as a widget on the homepage.

Social Media only gets it’s usefulness from the number of people who use it regularly. Even if Google+ was as good as Facebook (which it may be soon), there is very little point in anyone maintaining two accounts across different services. Facebook got big because it was a grown-up MySpace, Google+ may be trying for a grown-up Facebook, but Facebook hasn’t annoyed its users like MySpace did (yet). I can’t see a mass migration from Facebook to Google+ happening soon unless Google has a few more cards up its sleeve.