I started to write a Google+ review on evening one and I am glad I didn’t since it would have been based off of my interactions with a few friends who work at Google – and who hooked me up with an invite.
A few days later I have a much better feel for Google+ after they let invites go out for an evening before roping them back in due to demand.
I can tell you that this feels different from a host of social projects from Google and others. I am still working out the differentiation from Facebook and how they will create space but I can tell from my friends who are using it already that people are taking to it in a unique way.
What are some of the key features of the service?
Circles: the unique setup that people get intuitively. Facebook Groups, etc and Twitter lists were tacked on and afterthoughts – and they feel like that even today. Google building in circles allows you to follow folks by placing them in accurate circles from the beginning. People get this immediately. I’d love to share a photo with my college friends while sharing a different one with my family. It is much more seamless with Google+.
Hangout: video chat works extremely well, much better than Skype. I like the public nature of starting a Hangout. The stories of Larry Page starting hangouts and just speaking to 8 or 9 random Google employees as they built the service show some potential corporate usage.
Sparks: ultimately not ready for primetime yet but the promise of the concept is that you will be able to see items related to your interests enter the stream. The power of Google’s reach in search, news and social could deliver.
Huddle: a key feature for the mobile app = Huddle. A group messaging feature. I do not have access to the iPhone App yet so I have not been able to play around with it. According to my friends with the Droid App it is an cool, relatively complete feature.
Circles hold an enormous amount of promise as I underlined above. When people have asked me why they should use Google+ that is one feature that grips them right off of the bat. The appearance, smoothness of the service and more offer reasons as well. It is an inviting social network right off of the bat.
Other reasons? I love the early use of GMail contacts, the top bar over Google products that allows you to engage across Google and the promise of the overall network.
I also love the early reaction of those I was able to invite. Many of them have taken to it in a way that they did not react to earlier Google social projects or even those with some buzz such as Instagram, Path, Vimeo and more. I can’t wait to see how people take to it when it opens up and when the iPhone App is available.
What is missing? Well, a good bit but that is to be expected in a Field Trial. Instead of saying definitively that these aspects are missing I will couch this by saying that these are things I would like to see:
The iPhone App is a no brainer but it should make photos/videos beautiful to take and easy to upload. I think that they should consider filters and some other items to make photos/videos fun.
They need to capture the serendipity of discovery a lot better with Sparks – presumably something that is coming.
I believe that they intend to integrate across the properties but I love the concept of taking a Google Map, showing people where I am and where I want to go and then asking for a crowd sourced route. Imagine the power for road trips, people on vacation or runners looking for a new route. They need to inject all of this into it.
If they integrate Google+ into Google Apps they could kill group working applications and services such as Yammer. Google+ extensions into doc’s are needed.
They do need to integrate some “gaming” features and recommendations/reviews into the check in piece – again, as with everything mentioned I expect this to come quickly.
I would like to see Google+ also offer the ability to message with those offline. I know, I know that is GMail but I’d like to be able to send and receive Google+ messages alone – separate from my inbox. #noemail as Paul Jones would say.
It needs to quickly make sharing content easier and more enjoyable. Browser extensions, baking sharing into Chrome and more. They need to take a page from Tumblr, and avoid the Facebook model, and let us clip specific quotes or images from stories and page. Sharing = key.
Google Music feels several years too late – but could they interject something similar to TurnTable.FM? Who knows but I’d like to see audio included.
I am probably rambling here (excuse me but it is on the eve of a long vacation weekend!) but the core things that must happen quickly = better, easier, more beautiful content sharing and delivering on the promise of sparks to build content discovery + serendipity into the service in a real way.
Presumably the integration across the properties + better check in/geolocation options are coming.
The primary negative I have seen right now? The email notifications being turned on and more complicated than necessary to turn off.
I would also like to see a change to the way that the stream works. Rather than pushing items to the top with new posts I’d like to see a stream for “top news” where those items would live and let the mainstream be more chronological. Perhaps that is a feature that I will get used to but at the present it discourages me from following tech titans because their comments keep coming to the top.