Google Plus is Google, Plus
Here were some of my first thoughts on Google+:
- “Hey, it looks kind of like Facebook, but prettier!”
- “Hey, you can share things on it like Facebook, but with different circles of people. Or just one person. Like Gmail!”
- “Hey, wait, what the fuck is a circle? How do I add people?”
- “Hey, alright, I get it. Now I’ve got people in my circle, so how do I share things with them?”
- “Hey, okay, so I post things into this box and hit send to specific groups of people… really like Gmail.”
- “Hey, neat, it uses Gchat so I can chat with people… like Gmail.”
- “Hey, so it’s… like facebooktwittergmail? Why do I want this?”
Then I spent four hours on Google+.
Because of the integration with Google’s new topbar, I can absolutely see this being Google’s first successful social media venture. The topbar runs across all of Google’s services. If you’ve embraced the new “Preview” theme, as I have, in Gmail, then the Plus UI is mimicked. Regardless, I’ve been told that notifications still appear in your Gmail interface. So whether you’re in your Gmail inbox or Googling something, your Plus notifications will appear in the topbar, and you can reply to them without ever leaving the service you’re using. You simply click your notification and reply to comments or see your tags, and then go right back to what you’re doing. It’s a brilliant idea, beautifully executed.
And so are the circles, because they recognize your want to share different things with different groups of people, and they make them easy to access and understand. By building in circles as a necessity, rather than a “feature” like Facebook’s “lists”, you’re organizing your friends in a way that makes sense, right off the bat. No one uses Facebook “lists”, but everyone will use Circles - because they have to. This will allow for increased privacy and ease of sharing, two things which Facebook users constantly complain about not having. Granted, the settings are there with Facebook, but in my experience most people find them overly complicated, and difficult to figure out. Settings should be intuitive, and major props go to Google+ for giving the user control without really making them feel like they have to take any extra steps.
The app for android is also pretty spiffy, and while I personally don’t want to “Hangout” with my contacts in video-chat windows of (up to) 10 people, I understand why some might find that feature desirable. It also integrates with Google Chat, so all your chat contacts are already available to you in your sidebar. Which is great, because I am an avid user of Google Chat, and pretty much shun all other chat alternatives.
Final thoughts: Yes, this isn’t really different from Gmail, Facebook, and Twitter (or any/all combinations thereof). But the interface is clean, pretty and easy to use, the integration with other Google products is tight but not pushy (unlike Buzz), and social media is fun.