Dull. Boring. Bland. Google.
When it comes to social media, some people would be surprised to learn that I don’t really jump on board the ‘Latest and Greatest’ trends first. I didn’t join Facebook until I wanted to use it to get action, which was probably a full year after it was opened to my college. I don’t have a del.icio.us account and I don’t Reddit and I don’t care. I keep considering getting a Twitter account, but I don’t feel quite pretentious enough for it (irony?). But now there’s Google+.
And for once… I’m an early adopter.
Why? Not sure. The stars and planets of the social media galaxy have all aligned over the fortnight or so that Google+ has been available, and thus I found myself this morning having had the combination of boredom and a random G+ invite. So now I’ve been on Google+ for about an hour. And I may never leave.
First and foremost, here’s the answer to your question. Yes, it is exactly like Facebook. Specifically, it’s like a very early version of Facebook where you can’t actually do very much, but you find yourself constantly refreshing the page for reasons you can’t quite define. Of the limited features currently released, here are my favorites:
Direct Integration with Gmail
G+: HEY. Stop working and touch me.
Me: Yes, master Google.
I use Gmail for my business and all of my email, so traditionally I’ve always had a tab open for email, a tab for Facebook, and a tab for YouPorn Yahoo! News. The beauty of Google+ is that I don’t need to switch tabs to get notifications about someone’s new Lolcat picture. Google+ handily notifies me with a big red “HEY LOOK! LISTEN!” button at the top right corner of the screen.
Facebook started with social media first, and now they’re launching into email. Google email system is well established, and now they’re launching into social networking. Considering how much MORE time I spend on email than I do social networks, I think Google will win this fight. No thanks, I don’t need a Facebook email account.
A close second to its Gmail integration would be the Circles feature. The name implies that this feature would probably be very dull, but don’t let that fool you. Because it is pretty dull. All it let’s you do is categorize friends into groups in a much simpler way than Facebook. That’s it. Nothing more to see here, move along.
But in that simplicity, there is a subtle beauty that you only begin to realize as you add more contacts. You start with basic ‘Friends’, ‘Family’, and ‘Acquaintances’ circles by default, and you can add more as you go along. Very quickly I added circles for my business, circles for my colleagues, a very special ninth circle of hell for my loan sharks, and a circle that I consider very near and dear to my heart for all the ‘Assholes’ in my life.
I think my next circle will be for ‘Anger Management Professionals’.
That circle is currently the biggest.
As I get friend requests, I get a few moments to judge them and their true relationship to me, and then I neatly slot them where they belong. All they know is that they are added to at least one circle, but they don’t get to see which circle they are in. So they don’t know when I’ve put them in the circle labeled ‘People I Would Like to Run Over with a Forklift’. They just know I was kind enough to add them to my network. They get warm fuzzies, and I get constantly reminded to send them invites to the old abandoned construction site down the street. It’s just as fun as it sounds.
They’re not that cool, actually. Think of them as glorified RSS feeds for people who don’t know what ‘RSS’ stands for. Still, it’s kind of nice to have a feed of topics I like so I can randomly find new information. I guess. We’ll see if Google really does much with this.
It’s Not Facebook. Yet.
Perhaps the best thing about Google+ is that while it is a lot like Facebook, it is not Facebook. Yet. No advertisements, no ‘Tag me in this Photo’ contests, no threat of my Grandmother seeing me slip the ‘F’-word in a random post, and no random chat messages from the guy in the “People I Would Like to Run Over with a Forklift” circle. That’s all nice. But for how long?
Let’s not lose sight of exactly WHY Google launched Google+. They launched it because their shareholders demanded a new revenue stream. Right now, Google+ isn’t making much money (I assume)… but eventually it will. The ads will come, the flood gates will be opened for business, and we’ll all drown in ‘Like’ buttons cleverly designed as ‘+1′ buttons instead.
And then we can all go begin complaining on Twitter about how much we hate Google+ while complaining on Facebook how much we wish we updated our Twitter more while complaining on Google+ about how much it has turned into Facebook.
Until then, however, I give Google+ a B+ for a solid initial start and for the potential it has. We’ll see how long it takes before it becomes evil, however.
Special kudos to XKCD because they had it right before I did.