Google+ is a huge success. Even everyday people ask for it, use it and are interested to move on from Facebook. To me, it still feels like a beta as I believe Google didn’t expect it to catch on that fast. Therefore I will list, what I think Google+ definitely needs to do better.
Huddles for the Webapp
While the mobile apps support “huddles”, which are nothing else but group chats, these cannot be seen in the website. That this is not just a GTalk group chat makes only sense because people might not have used GTalk or the GMail webview before, so it could be made a single “chatting”-website, but ultimately it should be a usual GTalk group chat, so that other GTalk clients can benefit from that.
Additionally, Huddles for the mobile app are extremely handy for shorthand-group chats has you’ll get a push-notification for each message, but for each of such communications it should be possible to silence the push-notifications or just send one on the first new message instead of one for everytime someone writes a message.
Hangouts for the mobile apps
Hangouts are about the same as Huddles, you just can talk live and chat and watch Youtube while you’re in the room. Why shouldn’t you be able to talk with the other people while you’re using your mobile phone? Especially if you’re in a WiFi network? Or at least see the chat? If Google treats group-posts, messages, group-chats in GTalk, Hangouts, Huddles, mail and just everything differently, how should users know which one to use?
Fix the mobile app’s bugs
The Android and iOS apps are buggy. Sometimes they crash without any reason, and oftentimes the notification count is not what I should be. This needs to be fixed.
Improve Circle’s posting
Cicles are a huge win, and everyone knows it. What I miss from here is operations you can do with there circles.
For example, it would be nice to define that “Friends” and “Coworkers” are automatically in “Contacts”, so you have lesser clicking if you know the implications of adding a coworker for example. Inheritance would be a nice feature, although not everyone might use it.
Being able to do set operations would be another huge advantage. My use case is to have cicles of people understanding English, and people understanding German. If I do a german post, I would like to make sure only people of the targeted circle (for example “contacts”) that are also in the circle “german” can read it, the intersection of those circles. In theory, this is a very simple operation, and I would love this. If you think adhead, having other set operations could be nice too. If you for example make a joke about how stupid programmers are, you might want to post if to all your contacts minus those that you’ve also added to “programmers”.
Make Spaks useful
Spraks seem to be an aggregation of Google news. I would love to be able to set the “metatags” of a certain Google+ post. For example, if you find out a nice feature about the new Macbook Air that just came out, you should be able to tag it with the appropriate words, so it appears in everyone’s sparks for “Macbook Air” for example.
Open up the API
Facebook and Twitter weren’t extremely useful without clients, and Google+ isn’t too. There’re unofficial APIs out there (and Abelssoft has already released a Windows client for Google+ here), but these unofficial APIs rely on HTML parsing and therefore are not very convenient to use, are not too fast and also don’t open up all the functionality that Google+ offers.
That’s what I think. Am I missing something?
What defines social connections online? When you exchange details information not everyone else has access to and have the possibility to communicate, you have some form of connection with another person. But this is already the case with a lot of services, beginning with LinkedIn and XING and including address-books as found in most e-mail services. I would not define this a social connections, because I believe that social connections are defined mainly by the communication you do with other persons.
In my definition, only a few services fit in. Those, that most fit in are obviously Facebook, Twitter and Google+, because you instantly communicate as you login, when you see the newest posts that others have written, and additionally usually always communicate when you do anything with the services.
Who will survive?
All other services, be it the business contacts networks, specialized networks for other specialized groups as well as forums and the like of not-arrived-in-the-present-services, will over time perish, as the big three technically replaces them and it’s just a matter of time till people won’t pay for business networks and instead have their business connection in one of the other big three. The nature of those big three (although Google+ is not even a week old, I would call it one of the big three) is competitive, as they more or less all do the same thing.Beyond competitors, the metagame can be analysed. This is an old term from the time I played Magic – The Gathering, where always approximately three top strategies were around and you could outweigh their respective pros and cons, as well as which strategy won against which other strategy.
Facebook does most, as it tries to be the one service to rule them all. Broadcasts, bookmarks, instant messaging, video, pictures, games, apps, interests, groups, and soon even videochatting? Check this for Facebook. Additionally, it has it’s own ad-system, product and company offers and even it’s own virtual currency. It is omnipresent and the strongest of the big three if you take into account that even your parents might be using this service. The usual homepage was replaced by a facebook-profile, and even usual websites begin just updating their facebook-page instead of their own HTML-website. Facebook as compelling support for 3rd party apps and native clients on all platforms – some smartphone even have a facebook-button built in their hardware.
Google+ tries to battle Facebook’s overwhelming power with a different approach. More configurability with circles gives you the power to share stuff only with that group of people you want to share it with and additionally, you can explicitly only read certain updates, for example those of the people you put in “Interesting People”. Additionally, it’s white and clean and not filled with ads and distractions like “have a look at the latest pictures of Adam!”. The other services like Google Talk, Youtube and Picasa are all well-included for good. “Sparks” is like a newsfeed for everything tagged with the tag you choose and the new hangout feature is a fantastic killer for IRC and Skype. As the service is really young, it’s missing all the native clients that could be used to get notifications and relies on it’s web interface and e-mail for notifications only, which is certainly going to change soon.
Twitter is the most minimalistic of those services and only focuses on communication only without all the other crap attached. It’s communication is mainly broadcasting and limited to 160 characters, and it has a rudimentary direct messaging service and simple bookmarking (‘favourites’) included. It has clients on every platform and is deeply integrated into iOS. It’s the most used link-to service, if you look at the various news articles that show stuff like “tweeted by 300 persons, shared on FB by 53 persons and +1′ed by 30 persons”.
This is the point where I predict which of the services won’t survive: None of them. This was the point in the metagame of Magic back then, the big three are the ones that remain and kill off all the other small services that try to do something else differently. Even if one seems dominant and/or has the best technology, the best system or the best philosophy, there’re always enough people that want to differ and use the not-best-alternative. And as a Google-Plus-API will go public, there will be enough plugins and services to feed your info into the other services, so that you can use your favourite of the big three, while the next person will use his favourite. Only one thing is sure: there won’t be any more competitors than the big three, as those three services do enough for everyone.
Go to circles, on the left hand side there’s an “add” button. Enter the person’s email adress there. As soon as Google see’s it’s a valid email, you can click the text that appears. Then, add the person to any one of your circles. After that, make sure they got an invite by going to streams and post something adding just that person or the circle you put the person in. Have fun exploring Google+ and don’t miss out on the “Hangout” feature :-)
Edit: When you click the e-mail-link, Google+ sometimes states that the servers or the service has reached the limits, and that you should try again later. So far, everyone I invited really could just click that same e-mail link a bit later the same day to get access to the service, so just try again every hour or two. Ifanyone of you still needs an invite, use the contact form on this website and leave your e-mail adress or just use the subscribe-form on the right sidebar – I’ll also send you an Google+ invite then.
As I listened to the podcast Hypercritical with John Siracusa and Dan Benjamin lately, they discussed why we always give so much credit to the marketshare. Siracusa’s point was, that “we geeks” always feeled that the best operating systems on computers had “lost” to Windows, and that since this time we always were confronted with the PC-users who told us “Why use Linux / Mac? Can’t you see that everyone uses Windows?” even if it wasn’t the best platform (in our minds). (Well in this quotation, I’m not one of us, but one of everyone as I always found Windows better.) Therefore, since the iPhone “won”, we were happy that Windows Mobile lost. Since Android “won”, we were happy that Apple looses. If WindowsPhone7 should win, we’ll all be unhappy again – because it’s Windows again.
I never had this opinion. I would always look at how easy an operating system lets me fulfill the tasks I need to fulfill, including the initial learning curve, therefore I chose Windows on computers and iPhone on smartphones. I hate having to configure stuff all the time. I hate how the Android OS makes me click on way too small buttons and phone makers try to combat this with bigger screen sizes. I hate when I have to make way more clicks or text input to get anything done. And I really don’t like when the web browser stutters or I doubletap on a paragraph and it zooms to the sidebar. All pretty small things (yeah, rewriting the UI elements isn’t really a small thing), but if this were different, I’d definitely chose Android. And if Windows Phone gets more powerful and easier to use than iPhone, I’ll choose that one. I really don’t care about religion. And I never advised anyone to pick an iPhone “because everyone does” or “because it won”, and this is my only plea in this whole post: when you’re advocating for Android, please don’t mention that more copies were sold, as this has nothing to do with the quality of the hard- and software.
As this post might have religious comments, here’s a disclaimer: I like iPhone best among smartphones, so in your opinion I’m a fanboy – no need to mention that again. I also love customization in my phone from time to time, so I’m jailbreaking – but I also didn’t miss it much when there wasn’t a good jailbreak available. And for the pricing: since here in germany the T-mobile monopoly fell, iPhone is not too pricy anymore – so leave me alone with “I can’t pay for it” – if you can pay 500€ in two years, you can also afford 600€.