Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Google+ gets an A+

On the surface, I am a bad candidate for Google+.  For one thing, I was a slow adopter to Facebook, grudgingly creating my account only when I moved internationally so as to have a way to keep up with my friends.  For another, I look like a walking advertisement for Apple, with my Macbook, iPad, and iPhone never far from sight.  Finally, I am already absolutely overwhelmed by an incoming torrent of emails, twitter, and Facebook notifications, and the last thing I want is another fucking website to be checking.

Therefore, when my friend at Google sent me a "Field Trial invite" last month, I glared at the email and stubbornly ignored it.  Then, predictably, early adopters such as Ben and Stephen -- no wait, sorry, that should be Ben and Stephen, found their way on the site and so I too, did the inevitable.  Within 30 minutes of playing around, I can already say I am hooked and I hope it takes off.  It's fast - the way Facebook used to be, before it got cluttered with plugins, addons, and ads.  Unlike Buzz and Wave, it's well-designed, user-friendly, and it works.  It has the potential to replace both Facebook and Twitter, and very possibly LinkedIn as well.  In fact, if any sort of critical mass gets on it, then I will want the G+ bar wherever I browse - and unlike Facebook, Google can actually make this a reality in the short-term future.   Furthermore, unlike Facebook, the privacy and sharing on almost every item you post is easy to understand and completely within your control.

In some ways, it's almost unfair.  Lists on Facebook serve the same purpose as Circles on +, and I use Lists extensively.  But by the time Lists were implemented, I already had over 500 friends.  There is simply no easy way to go back through my friends and sort them into lists hours of tedious clicking.  Facebook compounds the problem by purposefully making privacy settings obscure and difficult to control.  On G+, every new friend gets added to the right Circle with no extra clicking.  The process is fast and intuitive.

Also, Facebook kind of went about it ass backwards.  It started as a closed environment, where people felt safe and secure posting their information.  Then, with each major update to the site, privacy is loosened and a ruckus is raised by users who feel violated, but have nowhere else to turn.  Now, there is an alternative, and everyone already knows Google's purpose is to serve up ads, so there's no big surprise there.  I am glad Google has refused to give up on social, and they continue to take chances and commit to having a presence.

Facebook's strategy worked well for them, but every strength is a weakness on the flipside, and G+ does a good job of exposing those vulnerabilities.  This will be a great battle between these two great tech giants - competition is always good for consumers.  G+ is a pleasure to use, and I look forward to watching how Zuckerberg and Sandberg plan to strike back.

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