So the big news of the past week has been Google’s revelation of Google+, a pre-launch service that nonetheless has attracted a large number of early pre-beta users. I was lucky enough to get in on it by the second day, but rather than rush a story out, I decided to give myself some time to play around in it and see how things look and feel.
That and Google+ is a time-sucking distraction that stole my entire long weekend.
Over all, I’m calling Google+ a big win. The overall feel of the interface is very fast and fluid, and very very clean in spite of the amount of information they have to convey to you. The features are pretty early days, but by that I don’t mean they don’t have enough, just that they’ve already revealed they have a lot more on the way.
The feel of it socially is hard to nail down. This is mostly because it’s all of 5 days old as of this writing. There simply aren’t enough people to give any sense of what it will feel like when it’s open to the public and really going strong.
Right now the population is mainly the core of diverse individuals Google allowed in early, a lot of Googlers themselves, and all the people who have been invited in since. While that initial core was pretty diverse, the later invitees are dominated heavily by people like me – tech enthusiasts and early adopters. This is wonderful for me; it’s a very comfortable, familiar feeling place.
That will not last out of the early-adoption phase though. As more and more people join, it’ll turn into… something. And nobody yet can say what it is. It might be something bad, but hey, it could be something great. And it has a pretty good foundation to grow out of, so I’d say the odds of something good are pretty high.
Google+ is pre-beta; in the language of programmers that generally means it is not feature-complete yet. There are still many pieces of the overall puzzle to come. Impressive as Google+ is, we can expect more in plenty. That said, here’s an overview of what there is now.
In many ways the core of Google+, Circles are nothing more and nothing less than a really quick and convenient way to organize the people you follow on Google+. They’re very similar to lists on Twitter or Facebook.
They’re more powerful than Twitter lists, which do nothing more than let you group where you read updates from others. They’re more akin to Facebook’s lists, which let you decide on groups of people to share content with.
Where they stand on their own is in how you create them.
Quick and simple drag ‘n drop functionality makes it a breeze, and quick contextual circling abilities just about anywhere you see a person’s name just add to the fluidity of the whole thing. Facebook may have its own quick Circles hack but they’re going to have to do a whole lot more than just ape the main interface to really get how it works down properly.
Streams are Google’s answer to the Twitter timeline or Facebook’s Wall and News Feed. When you add someone to a Circle, it’s equivalent to following somebody on Twitter; you gain access to their stream of content.
Of course, much like Twitter, you don’t get ALL of their content. If you follow me and I send someone else a direct message, you can’t see that. On Google+ there’s more you can’t see. If you add me to a circle, and I do not add you to one of mine, all you’ll see are updates that I mark as Public.
Going the other way, just because you’ve added me to a circle doesn’t mean I’ll automatically see stuff you post to that Circle. Say for instance you created a Tech Writers circle and added me to it. You find an awesome technology article somewhere and think that I’d love it. You post it to your circle. Sadly, I didn’t put you in any of my circles, so I don’t see it, and it goes unnoticed… unless, that is, I check my “Incoming” stream.
The Incoming stream is a stream dedicated entirely to content that you might miss because you’re not following people who are trying to share cool stuff with you. Any time you feel like checking it out, it’s all there to see.
Of course content there works much like other content; just because I might get to see that cool tech article after all does not mean your posts to your Family circle will be there for me to browse through. You’d have to put me in that circle for me to see it in Incoming.
That’s it for Part 1; there’s a lot more to cover, including Sparks, Hangouts, the mobile experience, and the future of the service, so check back tomorrow for Part 2!