Google+: First Impressions
Google has been trying to develop their own social network for what seems like years. It does seem like social networking is the next big step, and it’s only natural that Google would want to get involved in that. For example, many people are beginning to consider Facebook to be one of Google’s biggest rivals; while it isn’t a search engine, it is a website that many people visit simply to see what their friends are doing, and as a result it takes time away from Google’s vast network of sites.
Google’s previous efforts, such as Google Buzz, have largely failed. But Google+ is different, in that many people are taking it seriously and suggesting that Google may actually have a new, easy to use tool that could rival existing social networks.
At present, Google+ has a few different aspects to it. When you first sign up, it collects everything you’ve done on previous Google services together at once. For heavy Google users, this makes things a bit easier to start, although slightly creepy, as the system pulls every person you’ve ever emailed for years and presents them to you in a list. You can then categorise these people into your ‘circles’.
By nature, Google declares that you share things with different people and group them together in your mind. So you can create different “circles” for different sharing levels. You might find something cool that you want to share with your work colleagues, while your personal information can go only to your closest friends. At first glance, this seems like a good way to organise things; like many people, I know I personally have those groups of people from different times in my life, and I’m sure you do too; different jobs, different schools, different levels of friendship.
Google uses its purchased Picasa technology to store your photos. If you’re already using Picasa, you’ll find all of your photos right there, though you’ll still need to choose who you reveal them to. Future photos can be uploaded both in Google+ and through Facebook apps for mobiles. Called ‘Instant Upload’, Google+ will send your photos online as soon as you take them, but won’t share them until you’ve set your privacy settings.
This functionality is basically Skype built in to Google. You can start a ‘Huddle’ conversation, adjust your webcam and microphone, and invite friends to chat with you. Up to 10 people can enter a ‘Hangout’. This is actually a good idea, integrating a different service into Google so users don’t have to rely on apps installed on their computer, but we’ll have to see about adoption when the site launches more widely. It wants to be a replacement for the unplanned meetup in person, like happens for many of us at uni, but in the real world. It could also be a great feature for families if migration does occur from Facebook to Google+.
This works like a chat room, turning your text messages into a single conversation with one of your ‘circles’. So if you’re all trying to go to a movie, you can coordinate in a single conversation instead of trying to get multiple people together.
This, another very clever idea, leverages Google technology to bring you stories that you might be interested in. If you’ve listed one of your interests as ‘books’, Google will present you with all the recent stories about books and invite you to share them with your friends.
I quite like this one, as it could help me do a quick round-up of recent news in favourite sectors. I would still want to use Google for actual, impartial search, though those are apparently few and far between these days.
This also seems a good move towards more privacy. You don’t have to share your personal news with your boss if you don’t want to, and you can screen out those people you’ve added just to stay in touch with but aren’t particularly close to. You can share whatever you like with whoever you like. Those people can also +1 your news or leave a comment, just like on Facebook.
Google, however, are open with the fact that they’re using the underlying happenings of Google+ in search results. So, if something gets shared on Google+, it’s highly likely that it will go on to influence search results. Of course, we know that some things we share will probably influence search results anyway, like on Facebook and Twitter, so in that sense this isn’t really new. It just means that Google+ isn’t breaking any boundaries on the privacy front, even if it does look easier to use.
Stay tuned for more information as we get it, including a hands on experience!Tweet