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My first opinion of Google+ – thumbs up

July 3rd, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Like many of you I guess, I have been playing around with Google+ this weekend. And, unlike the clunky experience when Wave first came out, it is fun. Google seem to have got it more or less right in judging when to make a new app at least partly open to the world. Too soon, it doesn’t work and puts people off. Too late, not enough user feedback to be able to judge whether you are going in the right direction.

Google+ has four main ‘areas’. Like most social software interfaces it provides an activity stream but with the ability to switch between different ‘group’ views. These groups are set up through Circles which provides a visual interface to grouping your social network. the interface is pretty intuitive, although it looks far better on my large screen iMac than on my notebook. Working out how to group different contacts is another questions though. I guess I would like the ability to set up subcircles, so I could put all my project colleagues in a circle called projects, and then sub circles for each different project (although you can add people into as many circles as you like already.

Sparks is a little underwhelming, providing essentially access to saved searches, but with little functionality, for instance the features of advanced search, or the ability to add RSS feeds.

Hangout is cool, providing audio and video as well as text conferencing based on a circle or individual members of a circle. I have only tried it with one person so far and the interface and quality was stunning. Be interesting what it looks like with more people. It needs more functionality such as the ability to share files and to share urls and well as just Youtube video but i guess that will be added to in the next few days.

The interface is very clean free of all the usual Facebook clutter. And at the moment it is advert free, though I can’t see that surviving long term. At the moment it is rather sealed off but rumour says Google have develop a full API for + which will be rolled out at some point. Picasso is also built in with a free 7MB storage area for photos.

Perhaps most refreshing is that Google seem to have learned the lesson from Facebook about ownership and privacy. Content is owned by the user and you can get your content out of the application. That is vital for use in education.

And Google+ provides fine grained privacy with the ability to decide who you share with on an action by action basis.

The only thing I have struggled with is the Android App. The reviews say it is very good but I can’t persuade it to conect with my .mac account, rather than my gmail account, which I only use occasionally.

Who is it for? The press reviews tend to think Google is taking on Facebook directly. I am not so sure. Only last week I speculated that the real target for many new social networking apps is the enterprise market, previously the preserve of smaller social networking companies such as Yammer. And linked to Google docs and other cloud services (I assume there will be some levels of integration int he near future) Google+ looks a good contender. Whilst Facebook is a good market place for advertising and publicity, be it for enterprises or education, its shortcomings in terms of ownership and privacy really make it a non starter as far as serious social networking goes. Will people trust Google? I guess it largely depends how they behave. But so far they seem to have learned the lesson from previous less successful ventures into the social networking jungle, and are playing up the privacy aspects of +.

Next week Facebook are expected to hit back with a release of Skype for Facebook. But Skype is now owned by Microsoft and I can’t help thinking Google have timed this well in terms of offering a simple to use free service for video and audio conferencing. Certainly I am going to give it a go for project meetings. The world of social networking is certainly not dull at the moment!

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  1. Need more of this! RT @GrahamAttwell: New blog post – First opinion of Google+ – http://is.gd/1YSriY

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