Google Still Thinking Wrongly With Plus

I know by now that you’ve probably seen a whole bunch of talk about Google’s newest attempt at cracking the social networking market, GooglePlus. I was lucky enough to have a friend send me an invite last night and signed up for the service, and have a few thoughts that I want to talk about before I get to why Google is still going about this all wrong.

First, it seems like most people are excited about the Circles features, which lets you create circles of friends that you can share certain things with, without having to share with everyone. First of all, many of the tech pundits should be ashamed of themselves for suggesting that this feature is one that Facebook does not have. It absolutely does. Between friend lists and groups, you could replicate the functionality of Circles within Facebook, it just isn’t as obvious, or easy to do, as it is with Circles. Circles is front and center as soon as you sign on to Plus. Obviously Google is betting on making that easier is going to differentiate it from Facebook and Twitter.

Will it? I’m not sure. Certainly, it’s an interesting idea. I’m one of those who went to the trouble of setting up friend lists in Facebook, so obviously that is something I want to be able to do. Many early-adopter types are big on that feature, but outside of that demographic, is it really something the typical social network user is clamoring for? Facebook obviously took the opposite tack, betting that people want to be able to share with all of their connections at once, which is obviously much more convenient than trying to create Circles and then decide what to share with which group. I’m just not sure that outside the techie/geeky crowd anyone really cares.

Another problem with Google Plus is that in order to share anything, with anyone, I have to go to the Plus site to share it, and tell it who to share it with. There’s no integration with other social networking tools outside of Google’s own Picasa Photo Sharing. Want to tweet something and also post it to Plus? Nope. Want to update LinkedIn and have it posted to Plus? Nope. Want to automatically import new blogs posts you write? Nope. So instead of simplifying my social networking, it complicates it.

Finally, my biggest gripe with Plus is that I needed an invitation to even take a look at it. Google, once again, is operating like Google always has. It’s put a premium on beta testing, and limiting the number of users in order to remain a stable platform. They fail to understand that the value of any social networking tool is the people in your network. We’ll gladly trade some stability for a wide network of users. (see: Twitter) Google Plus cannot possibly become valuable to me when 95% of the people I am connected with through other means don’t even have access to it. Right now my audience for things I share on Google Plus is 7 people. Seven people who already follow me elsewhere. There is zero incentive for me to log in and share anything there. So I probably won’t, which defeats the purpose of a social networking tool.

So, much like every other attempt Google has made with social networking, there’s some promise there, but until it becomes widely used, and much easier to share things without having to go to the website,  there’s just no point. Perhaps it will prove useful in the future, but I’ve said that about many of Google’s forays into this arena, and it hasn’t happened yet.

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  1. Mike, can you post instructions on how to post a pic to fb and restrict it so only 10 of my 100 friends can see it? ’cause I certainly haven’t figured that out yet.

  2. Really? Of course they are going to limit users at the start… you can add all of your ‘friends’ when it officially opens and be grateful you got in early anyway.

    Its early days… linking other networks it going to be added.

    1. Daniel, yeah really. What good is a social networking tool without the network? I’m not looking for an easier interface, and even if they do add the features you describe, I’m only looking for the place where the people I want to communicate with can be reached. Guess what, they can’t be reached at Google Plus. If Google wants to beta test a tool with a small number of users, go right ahead, but don’t make public announcements about it. Don’t go looking for people to use a networking tool and severely limit who they can network with.

      Plus doesn’t add any value to my online interactions as is, and without that value, there’s no point in using it. That was my point in this post, not that it might not prove valuable someday. For all of the announcements and chatter about Plus, it doesn’t do anything right now but please the “anything but Facebook” crowd, who have never understood that it’s not about the tool, it’s about the network.

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