So here’s the thing … I was until very recently a big time Facebook addict. I am useless at staying in touch with people and frequently get so into whatever project I am working on at the time that I completely forget to communicate with humans other than the ones I physically run into in the course of a day. Since 2006, Facebook has been solving this problem for me, and it has done a pretty good job.
I keep my friends list quite short (about 200) and by being reminded that people exist outside of my immediate vicinity I am able to at least keep up the illusion that I am a real human being and can function properly in life, without being constantly reminded to call / email / text message my friends and family.
But recently I have noticed a problem with Facebook. People are getting bored of it, and rather than seeing a constant stream of updates and photos, the tide is turning and I seem to be getting hit with more marketing material than ever before. Businesses are finally starting to understand how to operate on Facebook to get the attention of users, and sadly it is working. What used to be a site based on community, sharing photos and stitching up your mates by tagging them in photos where they are being sick off the back of a boat in Tenerife – has now become a constant stream of updates from my favourite websites and tech companies. Sad times, I’m sure you will agree?
Until last week, when wafting into the online world like a complete breath of fresh air comes Google+, a new social “project” from the dark overlords at Google. I’ve traditionally kept new Google products (and projects) at arms length, and made the best use that I can of their core offerings Gmail, Analytics and Search – but Google+ caught my eye. My feeling of apathy towards Facebook has been growing for some time, and by the time I eventually managed to get an invite to Google+, I was ready for something new in my online social calendar.
Google aren’t pitching G+ as a self contained social tool, but rather they are “adding some new stuff to Google to make sharing online more like sharing in real life.” – a pretty interesting approach to the online social world. The idea of augmenting all of the Google services with a “social layer” is one that is significantly different (at least in theory) to any of the competition, who seem to approach it in the opposite direction (closed community first, adding features as it develops).
So how good is Google+? Well the simple answer is – not bad. The interface is far superior to Facebook (IMHO) and the speed and performance of the site is certainly improved. In all fairness to Facebook, Google+ has far fewer users at this time and so you really would expect them to be able to make performance better. We shall see over time how this changes as more users sign up, if at all. At the moment, Google+ is exclusively filled with what the eloquent gents at the Angry Mac Bastards podcast would refer to as ‘New Media Douche-bags’, and although this has been noted by many, I’m inclined to agree. Only time, and real users, will tell if Google+ will be any good in the long run. At the moment it is far too much of a tech blogger sausage-fest for anyone to make any real judgements.
Also key to this will be the handling of business / commercial presences on the site. This, for the moment at least, is still being thrashed out at Google HQ – as no commercial entities are allowed to be a part of Google+ for now. At least everyone on there is a real human (if you class Robert Scoble as a human – I’m convinced he is a Rackspace cloud powered AI designed to make me want to spend more money) and the level of interaction and overall conversation seems to be pretty good. There are also some neat features (which have been covered to death on blogs far better than mine) such as Hangouts, Circles etc that give a fresh look and feel to the online social world.
So, Google+ has potential, let’s see what the real people think before we all jump ship. For now, I’m living in Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. So please come and say hello, I’ll probably get back to you but then again, I might forget.