I’ve been playing on and off with Google’s new toy, Google+, for the last few days and while there are a plethora of opinion pieces all over the place, I figure what the hell, one more can’t really hurt (especially a nice short one that isn’t too gushing.)
I think one way in which Google really dropped the ball is that Google Apps customers are having serious difficulties using the service. Google is undergoing a massive effort to unify various types of accounts over their network and are mucking it up quite badly for such a smart group of people. They risk alienating some of their most committed users; heck, they’re alienating the minority of users who actually pay.
Something else I’ve heard is that Google should have gone to more effort to allow groups of people to sign up – after all, critical mass is what is going to make this thing successful. Coming back to Google Apps, they had an excellent opportunity to pre-authenticate all Google Apps account holders for the service, thus enabling entire already dedicated groups to bootstrap the service.
Sparks feels like a bit of a miss. I’m not quite sure what mix of keywords is going to give me stuff I should know about. I’m probably trying too hard to recreate the experience of hackernews or Techmeme, but since I don’t know what “topic” to pick and I’m not sure how the results are populated, it feels… off.
Having the Google+ notification bar as part of my GMail bar is inspired. It’s amazing how in many ways this is not all that different from the time Buzz was lodged below our inboxes – yet it just feels so much more appropriate.
The interface is finally something between the dorky, utilitarian UI of older products and the sweeping strokes of pastel colours, Helveticaesque typefaces and thick lines we’ve become more familiar with in the last few years.
Profiles are very nicely executed. There’s just the right amount of subtle completionist bait to encourage people to add more information and fill out more circles, but without feeling like you’re being pressured into it (a la LinkedIn).
It feels like it has the opportunity to be a richer experience than Twitter (who are struggling to fit the rich world of the web into their 140 character ethos), while retaining the serendipity of interaction with strangers (for want of a more appropriate term) that isn’t really available with Facebook. It doesn’t seem like it would replace the organic, real time stream that is Twitter; but it might supplant a good portion of my (admittedly low) Facebook usage.
Overall, I think if the bootstrapping issues can be addressed then this is going to be a really useful addition to the space that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn occupy.