This is what my Google homepage looks like now (with my annotations):
Overall, you notice a cleaner design for Google, and an integrated social experience. Quick status updates are just ridiculously easy to make.
If we click on the +Michelle in the upper-left corner, I will be directed to my “stream” of updates from people I follow.. which looks eerily like a cleaned-up Facebook:
You’ll notice at the top there are these mysterious looking icons that would probably do better with names instead:
Starting from the left, the first icon is for your “stream” as pictured above, the second for pictures on Picasa, the third for your personal profile (about, Buzz, +1′s, Photos, Videos, Posts), and the last, for your circles.
This is what my about page looks like, much cleaner than Facebook’s “Info”:
But you’re probably wondering what circles are.
Circles are groups in which you can choose to share certain things with. Just got a high score on Professor Layton? Share with geek friends! Just ate at Pinkberry? Share with girly peoples! However, the only gripe about this system of circles that Mr. Farhad Manjoo actually mentioned is that we have to manually manage the groups. Once we “friend” someone, we need to actively put them in circles, a concept that Facebook has tried with Lists and Groups, but failed. Friends change all the time, and so do our interactions.
I imagine Google+ to have two main challenges: (1) convince Facebook users to convert (2) cleaning up their information overload. In November 2010, Google slammed Facebook over importation of user data– Facebook would import Google data, but Facebook would not allow anyone else to export. Clearly, Google was eyeing a time in which it would need to import Facebook data, to make the move from Facebook to Google+ easier. Like many others, I have a huge amount of data (especially photos) in Facebook, and that alone might just make me stick to Facebook, however ugly it is. The second hurdle of Google+ is the organization– for example, the four icons that I pointed out earlier. On the surface, it’s hard to tell what they are for, and to me, Profile (the third icon), seems just like an poorly thought-out amalgamation of everything Google couldn’t fit into other areas. The organization is unclear, and if there’s anything to be gleaned from the age of iDevices, people like simplicity.
However, I do like some things about Google+, so far:
- You can edit past posts, disable commenting or sharing.
- The meme +1 is sufficiently different from Facebook’s “like.” However, Buzz and other products such as Google Reader still have the “like” button.. they really need to get around to replacing them.
- The concept of “Hangout” sounds pretty cool, in which you can have up to 10 friends on video chat together; besides chatting, you can also watch YouTube videos together.
- Privacy options are simple and easy to set. I can’t tell you the number of times I tried to delete accounts on sites and I had to go trawling through multiple pages to find it. Go to Account Settings and the Delete profile and remove associated social features and Close account and delete all services and info associated with it are all right there.
- Google+ automatically loaded in https://, the secure protocol, unlike Facebook, where you need to flip a switch buried in its abstruse privacy options (grumble, grumble).
- There’s a new feature called Data Liberation in which you can download and backup all of your Picasa, Profile, Stream, Buzz, Circle, and Contact data, in case anything happens– increasingly relevant for cloud-computing.
Overall, I think Google has created a good alternative to Facebook. But it’s definitely not a threat yet. Hopefully, with this field trial, they can start to tweak and really perfect it. I hope Google takes this opportunity seriously, because being on the Official Cr-48 Pilot Forum makes me realize how many people love Google and would review and test their beta products for free. The release of Chromebooks has sort of been a flop, mainly because the price barrier ($500) is too high when a comparable netbook (that can do Chrome and more) costs less– exactly what many Cr-48 pilots complained about.
Confused? Want to learn more? Visit Google’s explanation of Google+.
* a note to those looking for invites: the invite system has shut down right now, so I can’t invite you..