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:
- Your data can be ‘liberated’ using Google’s export toolset.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- An API. Let developers pick and choose the features they integrate into their sites. This would be a logical extension of the model.
- Integration with Calendar. If I’m organizing an event, the ability to send a Google Calendar invite to a Circle would be a godsend.
- Wide open. Let everyone in. You’re gonna have to do it eventually.
- 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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