I’ve been trying out Google+, and overall I think I like it better than Facebook. It has the feeling of something more robust with more potential. Or maybe it feels more professional somehow. Of course, I don’t really use Facebook for much, and I still don’t know how people are really spending their time there. If Farmville is your thing, maybe Google+ will be a huge step down.
One of the nice features is that Google+ lets you create “circles”, which are groups that you can put your social networking contacts into. Google provides you with a default set of circles, including “Acquaintances” and “Family”, but you can create your own to group people however you’d like. Facebook also lets you group friends, but Google+ seems to make the groupings more clear and easier to manage. Google has also made it easier to control which circles of friends can see what information, which has always been one of my complaints about Facebook– I’d like to be able to post something rude to my friends without my Mom seeing it, and I’d like to be able to gripe about work without my colleagues seeing it.
I wonder if it wouldn’t also be useful to allow users to create different categories of posts which act as different feeds. Whereas circles make it easy for you to control what people are allowed to see, creating different feeds might enable your friends/followers to decide what they want to see. For example, I could have my actual status updates (e.g. “going to the beach today!”) separate from my attempts to analyze the tech industry. Maybe some of my friends are interested in one set of updates, but not the other.
On the other hand, I am also concerned that too much control could complicate the interaction too much, and worse, it could eliminate happy accidents. I’ve seen great responses on Facebook from unexpected sources; some of my favorite responses to my own posts have come from people to whom the posts were not directed.
On a side note, it also strikes me that Google has a number of semi-overlapping services. I’ve been complaining for a while about the fragmentation of digital communications: Not only am I checking several different email addresses, but I have 3 phone numbers that might get SMS messages, 4 IM accounts that I use, and a couple social networking accounts. Those are a lot of different places to check for messages.
Will we finally see Google integrating Google+, Gmail, Buzz, Blogger, Google Voice, Google Talk, Google Groups, and Picasa into a single coherent platform?