I’ve been using Google+ for a few days now and overall I’m very impressed. Unlike when I’ve joined social networks in the past (including Buzz), I’ve stuck around after the initial poking around and finding early adopting friends. Which is impressive considering it’s been in an invite only
beta field trial for two weeks and looks like it’s going to be the fastest growing social network ever.
I’ll start with the good; It’s fast. Facebook and Twitter are no slouch when it comes to keeping the UX snappy but the G+ desktop browser experience beats both of them hands down. Google have spent a lot of time reducing the friction of interaction. So to add new people to your ‘Circles’ you can just mouse over someone’s name a little contact card comes up showing a larger profile picture, their name and company they work for and an option to add them to one of your circles. Mouse over the Circles button and there’s a little drop down to pick which circle you want to put them in and with one click you’ve added someone to your circle all without leaving the page or interrupting the flow of what you were doing, it’s lovely.
It’s clean. Again both Facebook and Twitter have pretty minimal cruft in their interfaces (apart from background images on Twitter profiles. It wasn’t good on MySpace back in the day and it isn’t good now) There’s one or two UI elements they could probably hide away or present slightly better, but otherwise it’s nicely pared down.
A bit like Twitter relationships are asymmetric so you can add people who you don’t know to your Following Circle so their public updates appear in your Stream but they don’t have to approve your following or reciprocate. You can choose what you share with who, so you can share your holiday photos with just people in your Friends and Family Circles, a link to something with just work colleagues or blast a status update out to anyone on the web. Interestingly Facebook has had similar functionality for a while with ‘Friends Lists’ but I’ve not really seen it used, certainly amongst my non-techie friends.
Finally everything is encrypted over SSL which Twitter has recently switched to as well, but you have to opt-in to get Facebook over SSL and their login page isn’t even encrypted by default which makes it trivially easy to hijack logins over WiFi.
There’s a few things missing that are coming soon hopefully, at the moment it isn’t possible to delete peoples comments on things you post which makes it quite vulnerable to abuse from trolls. You can mention people by typing @ or + and their name but there’s no way to tag content like #hashtags on Twitter, but there’s not yet a way to search public posts so I assume these two will come together.
Also missing are Events and Groups, it will be interesting to see if Google integrate these by bringing the Calendar and Groups apps into G+.
G+ has a very nice mobile web interface but it really needs a native app, sometimes when I was using it the page would refresh mid action and I’d end up back on the Stream. Apparently the iOS app is still awaiting approval from Apple.
One last little niggle is there’s no short URL for profiles, at the moment it’s just a long string of numbers, so you can’t say follow/add me @Username on Twitter/Facebook. People have already start using workarounds like an URL shortener or adding a /+ redirect on their site.
Those small things aside it looks like G+ has got a lot of potential and Facebook has had no decent rival since everyone deserted MySpace years ago. Mark Zuckerberg has never struck me as someone particularly concerned about the privacy of users so I’ll happily leave Facebook once enough of my friends come over to G+. I know, I know Google aren’t perfect either, but wherever you go online eventually you’re going to have to trust someone with your data.
Give me a shout in the comments if you’d like an invite to G+ or if your already in you can find me here.