At a Glance; Google +
So here it is at last, time for the obligatory blog on Google +, the new kid in the social media melee. Now before I share a few thoughts, I have a confession to make; I don’t actually have access to Google +. I know, shameful, but I thought it still warranted a few words, given the fanfare and furore it’s generating in some circles currently (no pun intended).
So, what do I think?
Well, I think the first thing to mention is that the platform looks suspiciously like Facebook at first glance, and I do mean literally at first glance. I’m not talking about the functionality or features, I talking about how it looks to the eye. It kinda resembles a bald, washed out Facebook. Facebook the morning after a HUGE party that ended with Facebook cuddling the cold porcelain of a public toilet.
That’s probably the wrong analogy, because the Google design looks typically fresh, but there’s definitely an argument suggesting it’s simply Facebook with the blue bits taken out. The problem with this is that the 99% of users who simply want a social media site to connect with their friends are going to take one look at the Google + home screen and dismiss it as an FB copy – in a word pointless.
You or I, with an interest in Google and Social media, will delve a little deeper, sampling functionality and usability, but I’m afraid we’re in the minority, and most people won’t get that far.
In essence, Google + features streams where updates, photos, links and other photos are featured (much like the Facebook newsfeed). It has a dedicated photo area which looks fairly standard, and users have a profile much the same as any other site. G+ does differ in one or two ways, and for me these will be the areas which make or break the site.
Shiny New Things
Probably the most striking element of the service, circles are basically networks of friends configured by the user. They take the form of circles, into which users have to drag and drop their friends, and in essence they allow you to segregate friendship groups much as you would in real life. Then, when you type something to publish, you can specify which circle/circles can view it, thereby preventing many a red face otherwise associated with unforeseen comments from the boss/grandparents/ex (delete as appropriate).
Facebook has this functionality, but it’s arguably easier to use in Google +, and it looks nicer too.
The Google demo seems to make a lot of this feature, and I’ve listed it here simply because I’m not sure what to make of it. They seem to be saying that the platform makes photo uploading much easier, but I fail to see how, at this stage at least. I hate to say it, but Facebook upload works pretty fine for me, especially from my iphone.
Now Hangouts is slightly more revolutionary. It’s basically webcam integration, which is probably something the other social media sites should have thought about a long time ago. The service is intended to be spontaneous, so you will be able to see who’s ‘hanging out’ (on their cam) and will be able to join, with as many as 6 users joining at any one time.
I think this is one of the best features so far, as it removes the need for a skype account, and to have skype running in the background. I’ve not tested it myself, and there will probably be issues with picture quality, lag and crash bugs, but the idea appeals to me. I have plenty of friends who I’d love to speak with face to face over the internet, but most of them don’t have skype, or at least I’m not aware that they do. This one is a big win for me.
Staying on the group chat theme, Huddle is a chat function which as far as I can see is aimed primarily at mobile users, presumably on Android phones initially. Think BB/mobile Facebook chat or Ping, except using your Google + contacts. I think many users will struggle to see the point in this, especially when so many alternatives exist on which many of us already have plenty of contacts.
I quite like the idea of this feature, although I think in reality I’ll never use it. The best way to describe Sparks would be to compare it to Stumble Upon. Using the feature, users can enter their interests, and then be presented with random web content which is related to said interest. It’s a nice way to browse the web in theory, but personally, the content presented to me would have to be pretty darn relevant to hold my attention. For example if I entered football, unless Sparks coughed up news and features about the greatest team in the world (Tottenham Hotspur FC obviously…) I probably wouldn’t be that bothered.
Without having access as yet, I’m not sure whether Sparks will present you with relevant content in a Google Ads type way. What I do know is that the feature has search functionality, so that you can use it as and when you have a spare minute and fancy a browse.
Overall then, it’s a mixed bag for sure. I like the face that Google + is here, because I think it will keep the social media movement energised. As yet, the SEO implications seem next to nil, but I’ve no doubt that if the site increases in popularity, Google will implement something to bring it in line with search and the all powerful algorithm.