I’ve been on Google+ since week 1 and while the initial mood has been overwhelmingly positive, I couldn’t help but notice the content of my stream becoming a bit skewed over the past few days as Google began opening it up more and more to “the laypeople.” Google was wise to restrict G+’s initial membership base to the tech-savvy, because we’re already on to Google about where it’s going with this thing; but now that the rest of the world is jumping onboard there seems to be a bit of confusion about what it’s good for.
In response to this, I thought I’d share a few of my own thoughts on G+, and why I believe it is a valuable and needed addition the online social ecosystem:
1. It’s not Facebook, and it’s not Twitter—it’s a bit of both, and the key is Circles.
What Twitter does best is giving busy professionals, celebrities, and business entities an outlet to interact publicly with their audience on a pseudo-personal level in 140 characters or less. What Facebook does best is giving people an outlet to interact somewhat privately with people they trust on as personal of a level as they like. For many, the separation between Twitter vs. Facebook mirrors their own separation of business vs. personal. For example: A picture of your 2-year old squeezing the cat is more likely to wind up posted to a limited audience on Facebook than publicly shared on Twitter, while a quick blurb updating anyone interested on a recent professional achievement often needs a more public forum such as Twitter to gain the visibility you want it to have. Even in each of their post boxes you can see the difference in what’s expected to be shared: Twitter asks “What’s happening?” expecting you to want the whole world to know, while Facebook asks “What’s on your mind?” which is quite a bit more personal.
What Google+ gives you is both (and much more), through the power of a brilliant feature called Circles. No longer is it a question of public vs. private, but rather the much more honest and straightforward ”Who do you want to share this with?” Through Circles, you now have complete control over who will and who wont see the content you are about to share. You may only want “close friends” to see how crazy that party was last night, while “friends” can be given access to pictures of your recent vacation to Hawaii, and the whole world can have access to that presentation you did last week that received a standing ovation.
(Note: Yes I am aware that Facebook offers something similar to Circles, but its integration is clumsy and inconvenient in comparison.)
2. For now, it may only be relevant to those who manage multiple online identities.
Sure, there are plenty of people who use Twitter and Facebook as practically the same outlet, and if you’re one of those then Google+ is probably going to be little more than a redundant nuisance—one more social network to have to keep track of.
Or perhaps you’re the Facebook-only or Twitter-only type and simply don’t see the point in jumping ship or picking up another service. I applaud you for your loyalty, but in this day and age resistance to “the big G” is futile. Which leads me to my final thought…
3. If you can look to the horizon, it might just be bigger than anything we’ve seen yet!
The real thing to keep in mind in these early days is that G+ is just the beginning of Google’s plan to bring a social element to many of its products and services. In the coming months, you are probably going to see the google.com ecosystem revolve more and more tightly around G+ to a point where involvement in the + will be unavoidable. They have already somewhat merged Picasa and there are whispers of a full-on integration with Gmail. What else could be coming? Well, just think about all of the services that Google currently offers and simply add a “+” to them: Music+, Calendar+, Maps+, Docs+, Checkout+, etc.—and I’m not even going to take the time here to mention Android and the possible mobile implications!
But what about speculative projects? Well, Google recently sank loads of cash into a little company called Zynga and not too long ago partnered with Rovio to bring Angry Birds to Chrome. Can you imagine playing “Words With Friends+” or “Angry Birds+” online with all your G+ friends?
The future of Google is here folks, and it’s as subtle as a +.