I know by now that you’ve probably seen a whole bunch of talk about Google’s newest attempt at cracking the social networking market, GooglePlus. I was lucky enough to have a friend send me an invite last night and signed up for the service, and have a few thoughts that I want to talk about before I get to why Google is still going about this all wrong.
First, it seems like most people are excited about the Circles features, which lets you create circles of friends that you can share certain things with, without having to share with everyone. First of all, many of the tech pundits should be ashamed of themselves for suggesting that this feature is one that Facebook does not have. It absolutely does. Between friend lists and groups, you could replicate the functionality of Circles within Facebook, it just isn’t as obvious, or easy to do, as it is with Circles. Circles is front and center as soon as you sign on to Plus. Obviously Google is betting on making that easier is going to differentiate it from Facebook and Twitter.
Will it? I’m not sure. Certainly, it’s an interesting idea. I’m one of those who went to the trouble of setting up friend lists in Facebook, so obviously that is something I want to be able to do. Many early-adopter types are big on that feature, but outside of that demographic, is it really something the typical social network user is clamoring for? Facebook obviously took the opposite tack, betting that people want to be able to share with all of their connections at once, which is obviously much more convenient than trying to create Circles and then decide what to share with which group. I’m just not sure that outside the techie/geeky crowd anyone really cares.
Another problem with Google Plus is that in order to share anything, with anyone, I have to go to the Plus site to share it, and tell it who to share it with. There’s no integration with other social networking tools outside of Google’s own Picasa Photo Sharing. Want to tweet something and also post it to Plus? Nope. Want to update LinkedIn and have it posted to Plus? Nope. Want to automatically import new blogs posts you write? Nope. So instead of simplifying my social networking, it complicates it.
Finally, my biggest gripe with Plus is that I needed an invitation to even take a look at it. Google, once again, is operating like Google always has. It’s put a premium on beta testing, and limiting the number of users in order to remain a stable platform. They fail to understand that the value of any social networking tool is the people in your network. We’ll gladly trade some stability for a wide network of users. (see: Twitter) Google Plus cannot possibly become valuable to me when 95% of the people I am connected with through other means don’t even have access to it. Right now my audience for things I share on Google Plus is 7 people. Seven people who already follow me elsewhere. There is zero incentive for me to log in and share anything there. So I probably won’t, which defeats the purpose of a social networking tool.
So, much like every other attempt Google has made with social networking, there’s some promise there, but until it becomes widely used, and much easier to share things without having to go to the website, there’s just no point. Perhaps it will prove useful in the future, but I’ve said that about many of Google’s forays into this arena, and it hasn’t happened yet.