Playing with Google+

Over the past week or so, I have been playing with Google’s newest social network – Google+. Overall, I am impressed with its potential.

The Facebook API is pretty much exhausted.

Everyone with half a brain can see that Facebook needs to either reinvent itself and face the wrath of the user base or go the way of Myspace. It has reached saturation, and although people continue to join it, the social side of it is on the wane. People are getting tired of the way Facebook works (at least I am).

Where do Zuckerberg and company go from here? Last week, they added video chat through the Skype technology but that was almost an after thought if you ask me. I think they knew that Google+ was coming. It should not surprise any of us that Zuckerberg was on Google+ in its earliest testing, scoping out the features of Google+.

Unlike Facebook, Google+ could start from scratch in designing a social network.

Actually, they’re not starting from scratch. Google is starting with gmail and calendars, and a multitude of cloud-based features already in place. That means there is a tight integration between your email connections and your social connections. The line is blurred almost completely – something I really like.

Google+ Circles make multiple social networks into a single network.

Being selective about sharing in Facebook is a nightmare. You have to set groups, then check boxes. There are multiple pages to go to. As a result, everyone posts pretty much everything for everyone to see. You get tagged in a photo, and suddenly you’re getting notifications about people you don’t know writing things you’d rather not read. Circles gets rid of all that.

Make a circle and share in the circle. Want to expand it to others? Piece of cake. Want to not see posts from those annoying people? Pull them out of circles all together. Want to stay friends with someone without them seeing your posts? Not a problem. Want to have work and play separate? Not a problem. Share documents with a circle? Watch youtube video together? Video conference with your grandkids, even though one of them won’t get home for a bit? Use a circle.

This is an ingenious interface idea, and it has tremendous potential – especially considering the collaborative features already built into Google’s infrastructure. Let’s face it, Facebook is a distraction – to say the least – when it comes to work. But Google+ could easily because a necessary tool – especially if they can find a way to integrate Evernote or something even better.

Video Conferencing is incredible.

I have not been impressed with mini-Skype on Facebook. It does the basic thing, but there’s a lot of lag and the typical Skype problems. Google+’s video feature – called “Hanging Out” – can be shared with everyone or just specific circles. In the aforementioned example of talking with your grandkids, you can create a “Hang Out” for all of them, and they can conference in from their computer, their iPad, or their iPhone/Android handset. Like Apple’s products, Google+ just works.

You can only run one video conference at a time on Google+, but that’s not bad. It is pretty much industry standard when it comes to webcams. But you can have multiple chats and running conversations.

Email Integration

A few months back, Facebook introduced their @facebook.com email feature. How many people used it? Not many. They view Facebook messaging as messaging, not email. Google on the other hand, already has a highly successful email – perhaps the most successful email platform ever. If you want to email someone in your Google+ network, just click the “Email” button. Nothing is easier. This is something Facebook simply cannot do.

Automation and Connections?

My one big concerns for Google+ is how well it will automate with other services. For example, Google has the Blogger service for blogs. I can’t stand Blogger. Will Google allow WordPress to integrate an automated feed? I hope so.

Because Facebook is a third party site, all the blogging systems connect to it. All the gaming companies want to get in on it. Google owns a lot of competing services. I hope they don’t become so focused on their product that they don’t support other (and many times, superior) products.

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