Eric Stewart: Running Off At The Mouth

Google+: GREAT! But Your Timing Sucks

by Eric Stewart on Oct.29, 2011, under Technology, The Internet

Yeah – as part of this whole “It’s been a while” thing, I figured (like two months ago) thought that maybe I should vomit my opinions about the next Google beta product known as Google+ for you to poke through and consider.

I have to make a few assumptions, though, to ensure that the post gets completed in a timely manner … well, more timely than the two months I’ve been thinking about writing it, anyway.  The assumptions are that you’re familiar with Facebook or aware of Twitter (and maybe perhaps have read the other social networking posts I’ve subjected my faithful reader to).

So … in that framework, how do we describe Google+?  Well … it’s kind of like Facebook – mutual following is possible, and there’s no real limit to post size, but mutual following is not required, so in that it’s like Twitter (or Google Buzz, which hopefully will die a quick, quiet death).  But whereas Twitter is best used for short messages, people prefer to use something else to communicate longer concepts, as well as share images or links to articles (I know these things are also possible on Twitter but let’s face it – it’s not really built for it).

It doesn’t yet have a lot of the Game Spam that Facebook has (which is one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about Facebook, along with Facebook’s recent attempts to become more like Google+ by incorporating many its lesser-liked features – or failing to incorporate features as well as they were implemented in Google+).  That’s likely to change in the long run, but I have some small hope that Google+ will make it a lot easier to avoid the game spam than Facebook does.  It also had a simpler, easier to understand method for controlling who can read what by grouping the people you follow into “circles” (so posts can be public, or can be limited to certain circles).  Facebook attempted to simplify their permissions system to match, but it’s still not as easy to understand or implement as the one used by Google+.

So, in short, it appears to be a cleaner, more streamlined version of Facebook, with a method of limiting who sees what when it comes to your posts, that allows you to follow people who don’t have to follow you like Twitter does, but without the annoying 140 character limit.  It’s even well incorporated into Google’s applications like GMail, Calendar, or Documents.  It looks like Google took what it learned from the failure that is Google Buzz and came up with something that could give Facebook a run for its money.

Except that Facebook has a head start that in Internet terms can be likened to “eons”.

For better or for worse, there are (non-technical) parents and grandparents on Facebook.  There are people who don’t sit in front of a computer all day that still make efforts to participate in Facebook regularly.  Facebook has been accessible via mobile phone apps for quite some time.  And that’s the thing.

The social media/technically savvy among us flocked to Google+ for one reason: It was a new product put out by Google.  Much like there are people out there that would buy an iBrick if Apple told them to.  Where we differ from iBrick users is that we’ll abandon a new Google product if it genuinely sucks.

Thing is, Google+ does not suck.  Not at all.  It’s kind of what we wish Facebook had been all along.

But then there’s that other thing: everyone has at least one Facebook friend, such as a parent, loved one, or long lost buddy, that it took years (and I’m sure in some cases, regular begging and pleading) for that person to actually sign up to Facebook.  This is, of course, assuming you wanted those people to be able to communicate with you that easily to begin with.  If you don’t want to be able to stalk your non-techie friends, or have them stalk you, then making the switch from Facebook to Google+ shouldn’t take you more than a few seconds.

Assuming you do want to “do the Facebook” with those people, though, the likelihood of getting those people to suddenly switch to Google+ is, well, possibly a mathematical function involving time and exponents.  At the very least, I’d say you’re doing well if those friends switch to Google+ within the number of years it took you to get them to sign into Facebook, especially if those people do not have Google accounts (yes, they exist; those people who you’re lucky if they have an or addresses, much less a work email address).

For me personally, this is what it is: My parents are on Facebook but don’t use it, so losing them when switching to Google+ isn’t much of a loss.  My sister, however, has three Facebook accounts and has no intention of jumping on to Google+ … it’s not worth her time.  So, I find myself hitting Facebook pretty regularly, and Google+ only occasionally.  I just don’t have the group of people on Google+ that I have on Facebook.

Sorry Google.  It could just be too late.

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