The jury is out on Google+

I was one of the (10 million) lucky people who got an early invite to experiment with Google+. Now that I have been using it for a couple of weeks, it’s time to make up the balance.

First let me say that even though I have a Facebook account I have never gotten into the FB habit – I do not want to put my private life on display. I have not “liked” anything and only accepted a few FB invites from people I knew. Unlike Twitter, which I use on a daily base. I like Twitter to educate myself and to follow news, but also because the discussions and the referrals to interesting posts on the Web. So G+ is not my way of starting over and uncluttering the FB experience.

What do I like about G+? The fact that I can put people in circles and then choose between sending updates to Circles or making them Public is a huge plus. I like the simple, clean interface of the Stream. I have seen some comments about the Sparks, but once you actually start using them, they give you access to a lot of info and it’s an easy way to read. A Hangout is simple to set up and join.

What’s not to like about G+? I only want to see the posts from people I follow, not all the people who clicked on Share. The Desktop version really needs an option to collapse Comments and Shares posts (like it does on my iPad) and a Mute function. And G+ should offer Twitter integration. They stopped doing that beginning of July, but a Breaking Event is so much better to follow on Twitter than on G+, so why not provide us with the best of both worlds? I know people are programming workarounds for this, but in most cases you need Google Chrome to install these extensions. Don’t tell me what browser to use: I want Google to fix this stuff so I can use it with the browser of my choice.

Sharing posts is a bit quirky: Once you shared a post with a circle, you can not make it public. If you want to re-share a limited post, G+ alerts you to the fact that this is a private post and I like that. However, if you make a mistake when sharing, it is far easer to copy the post and create a new one than to reshare the post with an extended audience. Also, if you have put a circle in the share box by accident, you can not remove it. Instead you have to Cancel the Share and start anew. And when you share a post with a Circle, your next post defaults to that Circle. I would prefer to choose Circles myself because it is easy to inadvertently share with the wrong Circle.

Right now, it’s difficult to find like-minded souls if you don’t know their name. I wrote a post on this a few weeks ago as Twitter does not offer that either and you rely on the lists that nice folks will put together. The way I picked up some of the people I follow, was to look at the followers of the people I know . G+ should offer categories, so it’s easier to find which topic experts to add to your circles. G+ just introduced Suggestions, but they seems to be made up of the Circles of people you are following.

As for mobile, I can not comment on the Android features, but the Apple Apps have limited functionality. On my iPad, I prefer to switch to Desktop setting because the mobile browser version does not give you access to all the Desktop features. Not sure why: mobile should offer the same functionality. For instance, the Desktop edition shows the G+ invite option, but the mobile does not. Also, dragging people into a circle does not work well on an iPad. The iPhone App is so basic that it is only useful for following the stream and adding comments.

What is a big +1 for G+ so far is that it has a clean interface with no ads. I’m sure that is not sustainable, after all, Google is not a non-profit. They want to make money and they should, because they are offering us a service in return. I just hope that they will figure out a way to do that without ruining the interface – if it gets cluttered that’s when I leave. The privacy settings are okay, but they could be much better – and Google should tell us what it is they do with our data. According to their motto nothing evil – but I’m not convinced.

So what’s in store for G+? Right now, it seems everyone sees it as a Facebook contender and once the hype has died and G+ is open to everyone, we’ll see if people are willing to leave FB behind and start over. Secondly, don’t forget that after the summer iOS 5 will be released with full Twitter integration. Most people seem to have forgotten that, but I have seen the beta and the integration is very good in all kinds of ways, like sharing information or exchanging contacts. On the other hand, G+ has only been out there for a couple of weeks, while FB and Twitter have had time to mature. I’m curious to see if Google has thought of some killer features that we have not seen in the other programs yet – if they would be able to come up with the perfect combination and separation of private and business stuff, then Facebook, Yammer and Twitter will face some stiff competition.

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