Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My experience with Google+

I use a lot of Google services (Blogger, G-Mail, Picasa, Music...) so I'll try just about anything Google once.  That is except for their social networks.  The past three never interested me.  I kinda wanted to, but they weren't intuitive and just didn't draw me in.  So when Google+ showed up, I didn't give it a second thought.  That is until Mike Masnick from Techdirt was talking about it in one of his posts; he liked it.  I respect Mike's opinion, so I figured I'd take a look.

I did a quick Google search for "Google+" and the first response was a news article about them closing the invites.  Turns out that they "ran out of resources" and needed to curb the influx of requests.  Think about that, when was the last time that Google ran out of resources?  I figured Google+ had to be an amazing thing if so many people were joining so fast that even they can't keep up.  Too bad I was going to have to wait to get an invite.

The next day I did a search again just to see if the invite stoppage was just a one day thing (it wasn't) and found another article.  It had detailed instructions on how to get around the block and still invite people.  You needed to know someone who already had it.  I didn't, at least I thought I didn't, so I had to wait again.

Turns out my sister has one and she already knew the trick to send invites.  After a few tries, I now have one, and I'm quite impressed.  Think Facebook - those damn game requests + Twitter.  So far I see no ads even when I disable my ad block, but this is Google, there will be ads. 

You can add people, but they don't have to add you.  That's how it's like twitter.  You add, say, Lady Gaga to a circle called following and see any of her public updates (as of this moment, Lady Gaga does not have a Google+ account).  Lady Gaga will get a message that you're following her and if she so chooses she can add you to a circle, lets say "fan club".  When she types a public message anyone following her can see it, or if she types a message to just "fan club" only those in that specific circle can see it.  If for some reason you don't want to see the message, remove her from your following circle and you don't see the update.

Note:  I'm not a fan of Lady Gaga, I don't even know much about her outside of the Weird Al "Perform this way" thing.  She's just fresh in my mind after reading an article about how she doesn't have a Google+ account.

Another advantage is the ease of sending personal messages.  If you want to send one on Facebook, you have to go to your profile, click friends, view your friend's profile, and click message.  On Google+, you just have to type the name in at the bottom of the message.  After you post the message you can disable comments and even disable re-sharing so you don't have to worry about someone accidentally sharing your personal message with the world.

It looks a lot like Facebook, a quick glance won't show much of a difference.  But there are some interesting features.  The Chat is on the left, it pops up in the lower right hand corner just like Facebook chat.  On the right is an option for what's called "a hangout".  I haven't played with it, but it uses webcams. 

On the top are the navigation buttons.  The home button takes you to the main feed and you can select a specific feed on the left.  The photo button shows all the photos that others have uploaded.  The profile button shows your profile.  The circles button lets you manage your circles.  Fairly straight forward.

While I was writing this, I was looking for the supposedly easy way to delete your profile.  I can't find it, but I did find something cooler.  Under the gear in the upper right corner, click on Google+ settings.  On the right of the new page click Profile and Privacy.  The third option down lets you put in any username and then you can see your profile as if they were looking at it.  That's a neat little tool; it allows you to test and make sure your privacy and circles are setup properly.

Oh, there's the delete option.  It's right under Account Overview.  It was right in front of my face, the one place I wouldn't see it.

As it stands now, I don't think Google+ will kill Facebook.  There are too many useful things that don't exist yet.  I can't automatically update my Google+ feed with Twitter for example.  But, hay.  It's still in beta, who knows what will come next.

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