Google+: First Impressions

So  yesterday I got an invite to Google+. (Thanks, Tim!). The invite period was pretty short too, and closed after a mass of people reportedly streamed in.

After a day or so of exploration I can honestly say I’m quite enjoying it, despite not having many people on yet, and consequently, not much to fill my stream. And therein lies the first thing I’m enjoying about G+: it’s clean. Of course, all that may change once more people come in, but there are no games, no apps, no extra third party bits (though apparently there is already code in place that points to games coming later on). It feels like a clean slate. For those who are a little tired of Facebook—I actually had a friend who told me he was sick of it—G+ may be a good alternative.

There have been comparisons made between Facebook and Google+, and in many ways they both do look very similar. They also offer similar functions such as photo albums and video uploading, even if they work differently under the hood. ‘Sparks’ strikes me as just a fancy way of saving Google searches. And from what I’ve heard, video calls, a.k.a. ‘Hangouts’, are brilliant, with some saying they’re better than Skype.

The one function I feel separates G+ from Facebook is Circles.

With Facebook, there’s no way to target your status updates. Post something, and anyone who’s your “friend” will see it. But on G+, if you don’t want to post a public update, you can choose which circle gets to sees it. It’s a great function, though perhaps more complicated than it would first appear. And to be frank, I can’t say I’ve really used it much; all my updates have been public so far.

There’ve also been a few privacy concerns (Hello, Facebook!) with the way information is shared and spread between Circles, but Google is apparently looking into it.

Google’s advantage in the social media game is their unification of their products. When you use Gmail, search, or any Google service, the omnipresent Google Bar at the top gives you easy access to hop from service to service. And tying in G+ to this lets Google tap in to their already present user-base. For anyone already on G+, at the top right of the Google Bar is a little notifications box to let you know whether you have any new updates in G+. And let me tell you, it’s addictive, just like in Facebook when the little red number pops up.

Nick O’Neill, All Facebook:

It’s a not-so-subtle tactic by Google to quickly increase the amount of time you end up spending on Google properties. It’s also an easy way to immediately add social discovery to all of Google’s products.

[…]

This is clearly just the start, though. Once Google Plus becomes stable and more widely used, the company will attempt to compete with Facebook where it matters most by building an entire social platform. The notifications are just one indicator of what lays ahead.

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