In the wake of myspace's sale last week, Google has decided that it needs to fill the power vacuum by filling the position vacated by myspace. There are, apparently not enough second-tier, poorly thought out social networking sites, so Google is stepping in with Google+, since second-tier and poorly thought out are right in their wheel house. Google+ is both of these.
Some of our regular readers might have thought I changed teams last week when I wrote about Google's Pride shirts and their HTML5 creator, Swiffy, but I assure you I am still here to tell you the truth. In this case, the truth is, Google+ is exactly what I expected.
What does that mean? Hit the break to find out.
Google has very cleverly integrated all of their services into their service, as Google is known to do. In fact, they are so known to do it that everyone is investigating them for antitrust violations. With that said, let's take a look at the positives.
Quick Links Integration - Once you sign up for Google+, or are invited, as it is currently not a public system, you will notice the bar at the top of Google pages changes. Instead of the normal order of services, +Name takes over as the first item (Name being your first name). This allows you to get to Google+ from any Google service in a single, personalized jump. In addition, the top-right now has Facebook-style Google+ notifications (such as "Chris, Stephen, and Brian added you on Google+."). You can also, seemingly, post status updates (or "Share" in Google+ terms) from wherever you are.
Google Chat Integration - Anyone who has used the integrated Google Chat in Gmail knows how surprisingly powerful it is for a web-based service. The client-based version is obviously better, but not by too much. Now, integrated into Google+, it finally has a proper home.
Circles - Similar to Facebook's personal groups, this seems to have been planned, as opposed to Facebook adding them later and always feeling added later. The fact that they look and feel very much like the T-Mobile Fave 5 is a little unnerving, but I think people could get past it.
As for the bad, there is a lot. The simple things they have missed are important, like the stream. It is totally unoriginal and uninspired; it is a clear and simple rip-off of the current Facebook stream. The filtering is in the exact same place (left column), although more pronounced because there is less you can do here. The overall interface is equally ripped-off from Facebook, including the placement of almost everything, even suggested friends. The big issues, however, are:
Speed - Who would have guessed that in talking about a Facebook competitor we would discuss speed, but it needs to be discussed. Their querying on the back-end is TERRIBLE. As evidence, I just clicked on a link that said "+1 by someone outside your circles" which, in addition to poor grammar, also took nearly 15 seconds to load a small box with someone's name, a picture and a link to their profile. Even Facebook doesn't take that long on a slow day.
Circles - I know I praised them before, but now is the time to discuss the bad parts. The interface for adding people to circles was clearly never shown to anyone outside of Google HQ before being written or implemented. It is entirely an drag and drop system. I can tell you from nearly a decade of electronics retail experience, and even more time than that in computer training: people DO NOT understand drag and drop. This needs to be scrapped and reconsidered. I have an idea, Google: try hiring a design team and creating some use cases before tackling a project.
Videos - Your Google+ videos and your YouTube videos are not the same thing. Enough said.
All in all, I think Google could have some success with this. There are enough people who don't think Google is being devious with their data, despite plenty of evidence, plus Facebook is now large enough to not be cool anymore, and people are looking to get out before it becomes myspace. As much as I dislike Zuckerberg, I don't think Google is the lesser of the two evils.