Brief thoughts on Google Plus

The topic of Google Plus conversations quickly expanded beyond the service itself.

Google Plus The blogosphere is already full with comments and reviews on Google Plus. I won’t try to duplicate what other people have said.

I have one very quick reaction, though: I was an early Plus user, just as I was an early Wave user. And there’s one big difference. Within hours, the early Plus invitees were actually using Google Plus for conversations. Not just nattering back and forth, not just comments on the service itself, but real conversations.

That’s fundamentally different from Google Wave, where I rarely saw any discussion that wasn’t about Wave itself. It’s possible that’s just the company I keep, but I think that’s important. For a social network to succeed, people have to be social. And, while I saw loads of cool stuff on Wave, I never saw anything that was social. It was all about plugins, APIs, robots, outages, browser crashes, and the like. I never got into Buzz, so I don’t have any basis for comparison. If you have thoughts, don’t hesitate to add them to the comments.

I don’t think Facebook is quaking in its boots; I do think (as @fredericl pointed out ) that Twitter may have more to fear than Facebook. I’ve participated in exactly one huddle on Google Plus: a 3-way video conversation with participants in the US and Europe. It was smooth, cool, easy. No echoes, no long delays, better audio than a cell phone. Skype may have more to fear than Facebook or Twitter. (I confess, I’m a long time Skype-disliker).

Google Plus is not without its warts, nor should we expect it to be; it’s only been up a few hours. There is an undocumented way to invite arbitrary people. I won’t tell you what it is, but it’s not hard to discover, and that’s important: a social service won’t work until you have people to be social with. I wonder how well the “circle” metaphor scales; I already have more people in my circles than are easily visible, and I have more circles than fit on one screen. And I’d like an easier way to re-organize my circles, since I’m not sure my current organization works.

But in short, I think Google has a winner. Bugs and warts are easy to fix when the foundation is solid. Congratulations.

(Google’s Joseph Smarr, a member of the Google+ team, will discuss the future of the social web at OSCON. Save 20% on registration with the code OS11RAD.)


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  • Anonymous

    Actually, the way to invite people that you speak of is very much documented. It was said by a Google employee that that is actually very controlled despite what everyone thinks.

  • Chris

    Anyone check out Minus ( ) yet? Way cooler IMO ;)

  • No. Under no circumstances will I invite anyone who I don’t personally know. All requests for invites are being deleted.

  • The reason Wave didn’t take off was very simple: they didn’t manage the buzz correctly. Wave got huge amounts of buzz, but nobody could get an invite. A social network without YOUR network is useless. So everybody uttered a collected “huh” and ignored Wave. Even after invites were available to everyone, it was too late. Wave had lost its buzz.

  • Um, no. The reason why Google Wave failed is because it introduced friction by attempting to change the way we work. That isn’t how paradigm shifts happen. They reduce friction by helping people work they way they want to. Google + and Circles do what Twitter and Skype do, perhaps better, and are integrated into the one thing we all have in common. Gmail. Fewer logins, less friction. Wave never gave me butkiss, whatever the invite / seed model was or wasn’t.

  • Agree wholeheartedly, the more I work with it the more I think it is actually complementary to both twitter and Facebook. A new take if you like…. and presumably we will soon be able to link them altogether anyway.

  • Gina Trapani (Smarterware, LifeHacker) made a great point on her site about why Wave failed and what Google learned from it: notifications. G+ defaults to send you emails about almost any new activity that occurs (comments, photos being tagged, etc). With Wave, you had to break away and visit a different site to check on new activity. A lot of conversations that did get started died almost immediately because no one wanted to visit the site “just in case.”

    I do agree with the other points about Wave being bogged down with the APIs, robots, etc. I can’t remember if Wave had a mobile app when it was released (even if it did, the install base was much smaller than what Android is now), but the G+ Android app is excellent. The combination of email notifications and mobile notifications almost guarantee the service to succeed in the long run.

    What remains to be seen is whether companies start setting up profiles (a la Facebook Pages), and whether Google releases it to run internally within a company (like they have been doing at Google). That was their plan with Wave, and I have a feeling they could easily do the same with G+ in combination with their other Apps.

    Oh, and a small quibble about the article. I think you meant that you had a “hangout” with three people. Huddle is the group text messaging system. Hangouts are the video group chat.

  • 1) Limiting access to a social networking tool is almost guaranteed to kill it. If you can’t connect to your network of people, why bother with it?

    2) It doesn’t work with Google Apps domain users – pretty dumb to cut out your most committed users,isn’t it?

  • Brian Hartman

    First, I think you’re not quite accurate about the preponderance of Wave-related conversations on Wave. Sure there was some of that, but there were a lot of more interesting waves, too, if you looked around in the Public sphere.

    I think Google’s biggest challenge with Plus is going to be opening up the floodgates. One of the reasons Wave didn’t work out is because they really waited too long to allow people to invite everyone they wanted to. If they don’t get the invite process back up and running, probably in the next few days, they’re dead in the water already.

    • I agree about letting the masses into Plus. With Wave, Google announced in May, but IIRC it wasn’t open to the general public until November or so. (Though a couple of times they let in a small horde of additional “beta testers.”) That’s a long time for people to wait. Releasing it to the public sooner, rather than later, is very much in Google’s interest. I don’t think they need to do it in the next couple of days–I think they have a couple of weeks–but certainly if they wait until they’re comfortable they’ve got the bugs ironed out, it will be too late.

  • Michael Sherov

    @Ray and @Mike, limiting access to a social networking tool is almost certain to kill it? You seem to forget that Facebook itself had a very controlled rollout. One college at a time for a long time. The trick isn’t to just let the “masses” in, the trick is to let small natural networks (like colleges) in at a time. The point about “if you can’t connect to your network of people, why use it?” is a good one, but there are many more rollout strategies than just “everyone is allowed in” vs. “gmail style controlled invite only.”

  • James

    >If they don’t get the
    >invite process back up
    >and running, probably in
    >the next few days, they’re
    >dead in the water already.

    I’m already losing interest.

  • The more I work with it,the more I like it.May be because it’s new and a little bit different from Facebook and Twitter.I agree that soon will be able to link them all together.

  • At this point it seems like it’s a rat race between social media platforms: who will aggregate more features into one place. Sure, Google+ has the rest of Google (Gmail, Google Maps, Buzz, Calendar, etc.) to back it up to churn out the social backbone you’re talking about. And as we know, Facebook just signed a deal with Skype and in my opinion, failed in the email department.

    However, I think the walled garden approach may be a factor that is appealing in the realm of social networking and online profiles. It’s hard to be certain that anything will be able to replace Facebook at this point (without consent from Facebook and some kind of deal being made). This is because it exhausts me to think that I have yet another place where I need to reorganize my online social life. While dragging friends into circles and calling some of them acquaintances is appealing, many of us have archives of friendships built into Facebook that we may find difficult and heart-wrenching to leave behind.

    Take photos for instance. After some trial and error, interface problems, and security changes, Facebook eventually got the Photos thing right. Now there’s a gazillion photos embedded in FB (true story). And what continues to work is that albums have an air of “disconnectedness” from the world wide web that Google+ may not have yet. All I know is that if I had to choose where my photos would sit, I’d choose a place with a fence. Perhaps if G+ can guarantee security and the mere sense of security, people would make the switch…maybe.

  • One thing that Google really doesn’t seem caspable of getting right is integration of its various platforms, as was so famously slammend by one of its own Googlers a few weeks back.

    OK, so Picasa albums are integrated in Google+, BUT, only in “Picasa album mode” can I copy photos from Picasa to Panoramio. In “Google+ album mode” the link is missing, even though they managed to link Picasa and Panoamio many months ago!

    Oh yes, and there is still no single login! The different entities still behave as different entities, even years after becoming Google property.