Photo: Joi Ito via Flickr
OK, I’ve been putting many hours into Google+. In just the few days that it’s been released I’ve followed 2,723 people, written many dozens of posts there, and have thoroughly used the product. I’ve also tried to get some normal users into the product, starting with my wife (we argued for 45 minutes about it) and I’ve come to some conclusions. Here’s the biggie:Your mum won’t use Google+.
How can I state that so clearly? Easy. Most “average users” are locked into Facebook and aren’t willing to consider a new social tool until they hear about it from their friends. Since most of the people who are on Google+ so far are geeks, insiders, social media stars, journalists, and other people (Google admitted tonight they are only accepting people who have strong social graphs so that they can both make sure everyone has a good first experience as well as test out some of the technology before opening it up to a wider audience) the chances normal people (metaphorically speaking, your mum) won’t hear about Google+ from normal users for quite a while.
By then I’m sure Facebook will react (ie, copy) Google+’s best features (Facebook already has called a press conference for next week where they are going to announce something “awesome”). This will mean that normal users, who aren’t really going to get involved at this point in Google+’s life, won’t feel the need to switch.
So, what is Google+ for then?
It’s for us!
Come on now, we geeks and early adopters and social media gurus need a place to talk free of folks who think Justin Bieber is the second coming of Christ. That’s what we have in Google+ right now. Do we really want to mess that up?
Plus, let’s just be honest here. There are pieces of Google+ that are mighty geeky.
Let’s start with how to bold and italicize text. Do you have a pretty editing window like, say, exists on Quora? No way.
To bold text you surround that text with asterisks. *Like this* GEEKY ALERT! Italicize? Put underscores around the text. Strikeout? Put hyphens around it.
And that’s just the little thing. Let’s talk about the big thing. Circles. Now, heavy and passionate users of social media, like myself, really love things like lists and groups. Why? Because we want to spend hundreds of hours making sure our social graphs are really organised.
Normal people do NOT do this. They just want to friend their 20 real-life friends and 30 family folks and be done with it. Average/normal users want the system just to bring them fun stuff without doing any work.
See, if you put the average Silicon Valley geek in front of a TV and tell him to sit on the couch and watch TV for four hours they won’t know what to do. They will start building databases of their favourite shows, start figuring out how to optimise their DVRs so they can fast-forward through commercials faster, and stuff like that.
Normal/average users? They just want to watch TV and drink beer.
So, you getting where I’m going with this? Google+ is for the passionate users of tech. If you just want to sit back and have the system do all the work (which means it’s not perfect, but it’s good enough for most people) then Facebook is gonna be where you stay, especially since your friends are gonna lock you in for quite some time. But if you want to really be able to choose who you listen to, then Google+ is much better.
Oh, and that’s not even considering the new “Hangout” videochat feature. Damn that thing is cool. You can have 10 people call into a room and it lets you all talk to each other. I haven’t used Skype since that shipped.
Anyway, it’s clear Google has turned a corner. They have now proven to everyone that they can do social and get on the playing field.
But they haven’t yet proven that they can convince your mum to use it and that’s just fine with me.
That all is a long way of saying that I really love Google+ and I don’t care what the average user thinks of it. I’m getting a ton of utility out of it and I am having a blast with it. Hope to see you there soon, but please leave yo momma over on Facebook, OK?
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