For those of you out of the tech loop, Google just released a new service (still invite only) called Google+. Without beating around the bush too much, the easiest way to describe Google+ is by saying it’s Google’s version of Facebook. As with anything, there’s a danger to slapping labels on things, (preconceived notions, unjustified transfer of feelings to the new product, too limited of scope, etc…) but it gets the ball rolling in the right direction. Google+ is social media at its finest… maybe. The goal is the same: connect with friends and family, share content with them, and find people that have similar interests. In that sense, you could even say that Google+ is a somewhat deadly combination of Facebook and Twitter (… minus the 140 character limit… what? That’s what makes Twitter? *cough* You know what I mean).
So… the big question is why join Google+ if it’s just like Facebook? It does sound like a lot of work, right? I’ve given Google+ a test drive, and here are my initial thoughts in comparison to Facebook… which will hopefully help you decide if the switch is worth it.
- Google+ really puts an emphasis on categorizing your contacts/friends. Yes, Facebook sort of allows this. Google+ makes it easier (and does it more effectively). As a college student, I don’t have an interest in sharing what I do with my friends with my grandparents… or parents for that matter. I’m not doing anything crazy (Mom reads my blog… have to throw in that disclaimer). It’s just one of those less is more things, ya know? In the same sense, your friends probably don’t have any interest in pictures from Grandma’s 80th birthday. Circles allow you to share Grandma’s birthday pictures with family and fun… umm… reading party pictures with your friends.
- To get the brain juices flowing, I have my contacts categorized as follows (general form… my actual list is more granular. No, no subgroups yet… really hoping for that in the future):
- Age > 40
- Friends (further separated by closeness of friends)
- The bros
- Close friends
- What context in life I met them in a chronological sense (high school, college, old elementary school friends)
- Following/Interests (tech, music, etc)
- Excluded – Add people here that you’ll likely never share anything with… they’ll feel loved though because they’ll get a notification saying you added them to one of your circles (courtesy of @layzrr)
Reason/Difference #2 – Minimize the bad stalking and increase the good kind
- I’d say this is Facebook’s biggest problem (lumps into that whole privacy thing). Since nobody has their “friends” actually sorted into lists (correct me if I’m wrong… and you know people you’re friends with on Facebook aren’t really your friends), when you receive a friend request you go through a mental check-list (Do I know them? Do I want them to see my pictures/posts? If not, am I willing to reject somebody’s friend request at the risk of seeming rude?). You end up letting them be your friend… and then you forget about them. Little do you know they visit your profile every day… .
- Google+ blurs the lines (in a good way) of connecting with people. Instead of accepting a friend request, you are notified that somebody added you to their circle. You can take action and add them to one of yours… (maybe your “Stalker” circle?) or you can choose to ignore them. The person that added you to their circle will get your public posts (or ones that you choose to share with your “Stalker” circle), but that’s it. This means that celebrities and such can actually use Google+ (much like Twitter). This public feature means you could even use Google+ as your blog something to ponder… (Kevin Rose, founder of Digg, actually is forwarding his website to his Google+ page… http://kevinrose.com/).
Reason/Difference #3 – Huddles
- If you’ve ever tried coordinating a get together with a group of friends via text message, you know how much of a nightmare that can be. People want to know who’s going, make suggestions, invites others, etc. Huddle is essentially group SMS messaging in chat form. I haven’t used it yet, but I like the idea. It likely requires you have rich friends with smartphones though…
Reason/Difference #4 – Hangouts
- This is kind of minor… maybe something big later. Google+ has a feature where you can choose to “hangout” (in the context of a particular circle) while at your computer. This notifies people in your circle that you are around and available to video chat. If somebody wants to join, they click the button and join the hangout. Kind of an intriguing way of just casually talking with people. It’s like a video chat room… just way WAY less creepy.
- This could be chalked up as minor. I’m saying it’s major. Using Google+ is enjoyable (to me). I can’t really explain tangibly why it feels better, but I’ll take a stab at it. Responses are crisp. Animations are clean and subtle. Graphics are minimalist. The organization/presentation of pictures is slick. Use Google+ for a half hour (if you can find enough friends) and then switch back to Facebook. The feel of the two sites is quite different. Now try using the Google+ Android app and switch back to the Facebook Android app… ick.
- You can actually edit posts and comments in Google+. What a novel idea!