Google+ thoughts – I eat crow

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Ian Lurie Jul 1 2011

I must eat crow now. Not tasty, breaded and fried, but vaguely icky, with feathers still stuck to it. I dissed Google+ the moment it came out, in part because it failed—it vomited everywhere when I tried to sign up.

But now that I’ve used it for a while, I have to say that it’s got a lot of big advantages. I still have my doubts, but I think this could actually fly.

Why Google+ could win

In short, Google is Netscape to Facebook’s AOL-style model. Facebook is a ‘walled garden’. You log in, do your social stuff, then log out. Also, Facebook makes communicating with specific groups and lists of friends really, really difficult. Google has opted for a more open model: Google+ follows you around in Google-land, and Circles let you use any + feature but confine your message to specific groups of friends:

  1. Your data can be ‘liberated’ using Google’s export toolset.
  2. Google+ is a set of tools that are loosely tied together, but you can use them all while searching, using Reader, using Google Docs uploading photos, etc.. That puts Google+ where your work is happening. Which may kill productivity worldwide, but it differentiates Google’s offering in a way that could get them their own, unique audience.
  3. Easy ‘mini communities’. The Circles feature lets you segment your social media following and communicate with any of them separately using chat, messaging, video, etc.
  4. Google Chrome. Assuming the FTC doesn’t rip Google limb from limb, the company has a browser platform for their social media platform. That could be convenient.

The rise of independent ISPs and a choice of web browsers was a nightmare for AOL. If Google+ expands and grows to include other Google apps, and then beyond (toolbar, anyone?) it could make Facebook toss and turn, too.

Why Google+ could lose

On the other hand, Google+ could flame out, ala Buzz, Wave and (cough) SideWiki:

  1. It has to grow, fast. I know Facebook and other service had time to grow. Google+ does not. The public won’t be patient. So Google has to re-open invites and get ready for a flood of users.
  2. Privacy gaffes. Google+ can’t accidentally allow the entire world to see my e-mails, or let me see people outside relevant circles, or otherwise barf inappropriate data everywhere. Never mind that Facebook is about as private as a transparent commode. People are paranoid about Google and social media. They’ll run in a hurry.
  3. Complexity. As Rand correctly stated yesterday, Google+ is awfully complicated. Google used to build fantastically simple tools. Lately they’re throwing cupholders on canoes. I don’t get it, and the average user will walk away confused. A hint to Google: If you have to provide a video tutorial, no one’s going to use it.
  4. It’s getting crowded. Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn. Do we need another network? I dunno.

What I’d like to see

I already like the platform, but to really take off I think Google+ needs:

  1. An API. Let developers pick and choose the features they integrate into their sites. This would be a logical extension of the model.
  2. Integration with Calendar. If I’m organizing an event, the ability to send a Google Calendar invite to a Circle would be a godsend.
  3. Wide open. Let everyone in. You’re gonna have to do it eventually.
  4. Pare back the feature set. Simplify!

We’ll see what happens. But Google+ is a hell of a lot better than Buzz, that’s for certain.

What do you think?

Note: If you want to follow me on Google+, I’m here: https://plus.google.com/109108273123284204690/

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10 Comments

  1. John

    Google needs to drop this “invite” thing they keep doing. What good is a social network if nobody I know is on it? When I finally do get my invite, how many people that I know will be on there as well? Open it up to everyone.

  2. I really like Google+. A lot. I’ll keep a Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn account to ensure I have a presence everywhere, but I’d be perfectly happy with just Google+.
    Circles is the key to my bliss. Being able to sort my social graph into buckets and control the content I share with each group is awesome.
    I can see why people think Google+ seems complicated. Google introduced 3 major features at once–Circles, Hangout, and Sparks. Hence the video to explain them all. The thing is, these are also the features that make Google+ a bit more than a “me too” product.
    I really hope that enough people join to keep the community viable–for what essentially amounts to a 3-day old beta launch, Google+ is mighty impressive in my eyes.

  3. Fray Close

    Search, I don’t know, it is just really hard to find people on there, I want to be able to follow like on twitter and the too private streams are annoying.
    I like the idea that this hits between facebook and twitter and we can sort of start off assuming everything isn’t private unlike FB. I trust google more.
    If i can have a twitter type home stream Facebook style. woohoo.
    Simple reason I think google+ will win? Facebook sucks, they have walked all over us for too long, enough people are mad and hate it, and this will work. The big reason facebook is still big, is that there was nowhere else to go. Now there is :D

  4. I dunno, I kinda wouldn’t mind a canoe with a cup holder…

  5. good thoughts. The Facebook / AOL side note is as important in the overarching conversation as much as this tool’s chances of success. I think eventually fb’s strength will be its undoing. If Google will open this up and get out of the way of itself – this could be the win they hope it will be.

  6. There is one thing I just can’t see Google overcoming. Facebook, even if it sucks, is where my friends are, and my friends’ friends and on and on and on. If my friends aren’t on Google+, then I won’t be there either. So unless Google can figure out how to get all of my friends and my friends’ friends and my friends’ friend’s friends to all leave and move to Google+, I just don’t see anyone but tech geeks using it. Facebook has Critical Mass and I don’t think Google can overcome it. Even if its not the best party on the block, its the party with all the people.

  7. The only part I disagree with, Ian, is the supposed complexity of G+. For the average user to arrive and comprehend all functions of G+, perhaps. But the beauty of it is that you can use those functions you find attractive and useful, and ignore the rest. It’s a smörgåsbord… we don’t have to gobble up everything, just what looks good to us. ;)
    As for needing to open up quickly, I definitely agree. No sense in losing their impetus by dragging their feet.

  8. Ian

    @Doc I do like the fact that it’s “ala carte” social media. And I’m getting used to it pretty quickly. we’ll see how they do getting adopters…

  9. Steve

    I’ve yet to see much of Google+ as I don’t have an invite but I am looking forward to it opening up to the public. Circles is the feature that i’m keen to explore.

  10. Brian

    It is just a matter of time til it takes over Facebook. Facebook is just boring now. Everyone keeps talking about what they want to see on G+, let’s talk about what we don’t want to see (well, at least I don’t) and they are in no particular order: farms,fish tanks,mafias,lame ass causes, pokes, the ability for anyone to create an event :), the ability to just “like” comments (there should be a rule that for every three likes you give to other people’s comments you have to ACTUALLY ENGAGE in the community and write something about a comment or add something intelligent to the mix, and a bunch of other crappy flare that has polluted the site. Did that come off as sounding harsh?

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