After playing around with Google+, the new social network that Google launched this week, for a few days I really start to like what I am seeing. I am still a bit sceptical, but Google is doing some things better than Facebook is. It actually reminds me a lot of Sina Weibo, the Chinese Twitter clone that will soon surpass Twitter – and may even be a threat to Twitter.
First of all I like that Google+ allows you to follow everybody like on Twitter. As many people know I don’t really believe in privacy and so everybody can follow me on every SNS. The problem with Facebook, however, is that people can only see my updates if I follow them back. But many people that send me friend requests there I don’t know at all, so in order for them to see my updates automatically I need to accept their friend requests. Of course you can then hide them from your time line, but it still feels a bit weird to add many people as friends that you have never met. On Twitter, and now on Google+, people can follow you without you following them back. I think that’s a feature that Facebook should introduce as well.
Another thing that Google+ does much better is the group functionality. Facebook also has groups, but Google went a step further. Each time you add a contact you can immediately add them to certain groups, called circles. You can also make new circles for them (I made circles for all companies that I am involved in for example), so if you want to share certain things only with a smaller group that’s possible. I think this solves a big privacy issue that Facebook is facing.
When I added a colleague on Facebook a while ago she told me she felt a bit weird about it because I could see all her party pictures. I could understand that (not that it makes a difference to me, I don’t judge people by what they do outside work hours. I actually love to party myself as well, but that’s a different story), but with Google+ she would not have that issue because there she could just add me to a circle that she does not share her party pictures with. Doing this with Facebook Groups is theoretically possible, but not many people use the functionality because it’s not a main feature of the site like within Google+.
Will many people use circles? Maybe not, it’s more of a geeky thing, especially for people with thousands of followers on Facebook or Twitter. For me it’s quite useful and I may actually follow more people back than on Twitter if I can filter some of their updates through circles or (even better) if they filter what they send me. I understand that you can also follow certain circles, didn’t try that out yet, but that’s another great feature – copied straight from Twitter Lists of course. Talking about copying, a lot of the features that I see in Google+ seem to come from Sina Weibo, I would not be surprised if the Google China people analysed the success of Weibo and made a list of all their killer features.
I am surprised how busy Google+ already is. The first day Google only let people with a large social graph on there, which was very smart: they are the ones that post most on Facebook and Twitter and would ensure that Google+ would be full of activity right away. They could then invite others, but for some reason Google suddenly stopped that (I can’t invite new people anymore). There was a trick that you could add new people by sending them a Google+ post by email, but I understand even that function does not work anymore.
But despite that, many of my geeky and entrepreneurial friends are already on the service and are actively sharing information. So far I only have 35 contacts, but that’s mainly because I did not spend a lot of time following people, and partly also because it takes a bit more time because you have to decide which circle you want to add them to.
Will Google+ be a success? Hard to say after just a few days where mainly the geeks are active, but I take back my initial judgment that I did not believe a new SNS could beat Facebook or Twitter. The problem is that I already spend too much time updating and reading Twitter and Facebook. I don’t want to add a third one to that list to be very honest. So maybe one of them will have to go to be replaced by Google+.
That would probably be Twitter for me: I don’t see enough innovation there, especially when I compare it to Weibo. But I have about 3500 followers on Twitter, and it’s an interesting audience to discuss things with. To build up 3500 followers on Google+ will take a lot of time, so until then I won’t abandon Twitter. But if Twitter does not innovate more quickly I may eventually drop them and move to Google+. I’ll wait a few months, before giving a final judgment on this. But for now I give Google a chance – and actually even a good chance. They thought SNS through and came up with a great solution and excellent functionality. I look forward to what will happen with this initiative!