I was finally able to get into Google Plus about a week ago and my overall rating is that it is interesting but....
For those of us that played with other ill-fated Google products (such as Buzz), it is refreshing to see that they learned their lessons.
As you can see, Google has used a clean and easy to understand interface however it will take some getting used to. Dozens of prominent tech bloggers complained that Google Plus is simply a different looking Facebook. Some unpopular Google products attempted to use crazy new interfaces that simply confused customers and ultimately lead to the product tanking. With Plus, Google wanted to the familiar feel of social networking (Facebook, twitter et al) while extending many of its functionalities.
It is obvious that Google has made privacy and content distribution control a priority. Unlike Facebook, you add your contacts to different Circles (think of these as groups) and then can share content in a very granular way. In my tests, I ended up with these Circles.
Adding, removing or checking Circle membership is as easy as dragging contacts in and out of a circle.
When posting a status update (or picture or movie), I decide which circle to share it with:
In this case I added the public Circle (which would share it with the whole world) and the Family Circle (to show you how it would be done). Remember I can add as many circles as I want. This means that you can share your vacation pictures with your family and the business conference ones with your co-workers.
Most people I work with are stressed when colleagues or bosses ask to be friends on Facebook. Do you accept and allow them access to your private life or refuse making the relationship awkward. Sure Facebook offers some controls to work around this but they are not this granular, they are difficult to understand and use.
Sparqs is cool
I won't be reviewing each of the features of the site but I thought Spars was cool enough to discuss here.
Many have said Google Plus feels like a prettier version of Facebook + Twitter and this fairly accurate. Sparqs leverages Google's +1 feature and creates a brand new recommendation engine. This is one of those features that will either do phenomenally well and help propel Google plus or it will be overlooked and die. It is very cool and should be looked at.
Searching for "Google Plus" in Sparqs returned:
Obviously as you use their content rating system (Google +1), the content it will present will become more relevant and customized for you. Ultimatey if enough people start using Google+ and Sparqs, it could replace other sites like Digg or Slashdot. This has the potential to be a real game changer.
There are other features like Hangout which is intelligent multi-person video chatting and Photos but the purpose of this entry was to share some general thoughts. Ultimately I did not see anything that would make this a Facebook killer. It is a well designed and thought out social networking site that could be the next big thing if Google can convince enough people to join and add content. The key question is "Is there a killer feature that would win members away from Facebook?". I haven’t seen anything that would be considered a killer must have feature.
They will likely use all of their internet might to lure users to Plus by integrating their various products into it (GMAIL, Picasa, Reader, etc). This won't happen overnight but it is something I am expecting. Remember that the social networking sites don't add any value themselves. The only reason Facebook is so popular is because of the 750 million users adding tones of content contacts want to see. If Google can't get a large number of users to join then this will be an abysmal failure.
My favorite feature is the granular and easy to use privacy features. Hats off to Google for that.
If anyone wants invites, send me a note using the contact me page. I will invite as many of you as I can before they stop sending them out again.