In Dissent: 5 Reasons Google+ Doesn't Suck

Google+ has had its detractors lately — one or two (or three or four) might even be found right here. They have some good points, but they're wrong. Google+ is awesome. Here are just a few reasons why.

Growth and Appetite

As of this writing, I have a modest 569 followers on Twitter and a slightly less modest 640 people who have added me to their Google+ Circles. That may seem like a small difference, but when you consider that my Twitter account had a head start of a couple hundred followers, several years, and much more pimping from Gizmodo and others, it's significant. Google+ is full of people who are actively looking for content and are looking for interesting people to follow. Let me say this in no uncertain terms: if you log into Google+ and your feed is a barren wasteland, it's your own fault. It means you're not following the right people. And guess what, the right people are actually pretty easy to find. Search by your interests, find people that are posting cool stuff, and add them to a circle. There are also sites that recommend good follows such as RecommendedUsers.com and Group/As.

One reason Google+ has ramped up so quickly? It's so easy, thanks to some pretty sweet integration with many of the Google services you likely already use. For example, when I have a new Google+ notification, a little "1" (or 2 or 3, depending how many notifications I have) lights up in the upper-right corner of my Gmail window. I can click it, and it brings up an imbedded window where I can see the notification, and even respond to it, without ever having to leave the page I'm on. It's incredibly convenient. Plus1ing is also integrated nicely into Google searches now, and it's coming to more and more sites you regularly visit. Photo viewing/editing/sharing is really nice thanks to its integration with (read: consumption of) Picasa.

Real Talk

Having to squeeze your thoughts into 140 characters is a fun game — something your high school English teacher might have had you do one day to shake things up — but I often don't feel like playing that game. Sometimes I just want to write out my thoughts as they appear in my head, without having to think about rewording them or resorting to horrible misspellings in order for it to fit. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it's hardly the heart of a good conversation. Trying to carry out a conversation on Twitter is an act of futility; it's maddening to figure out who is responding to what, especially when tweets so often devolve into snarky little quips and snips because that's all there's room for. It hurts my eyes' ears.

Google+ combines Twitter's "following" people with similar interests with the flowing conversations of Facebook, and it really works well most of the time. Not only have I found myself much more willing to engage in discussions on Google+, I'm seeing vastly higher interaction among others. I have found that people on Google+ are two to three times as likely to comment on one of my posts or reshare it than on Twitter. That's anecdotal, sure — and I travel in the kind of tech-minded circles that are more likely to adopt Google+ early and stick with it. But there is a lot of real conversation—that's talking and listening — and I've seen surprisingly little self-stroking.

Usable Filtering

Google+ introduced Circles, and they were good. Facebook then added its own group filtering feature, called Lists. So that's the end and they must be equal now, right? Wrong. Here's the thing about Google+'s filters: people actually use them. Virtually every person I know who uses Google+ has made at least a few circles and actually utilises them. On the flip side, virtually nobody on Facebook uses filters. Like, at all. Yes, you can do it, but it came too late. The Lists feature on Facebook is an afterthought. We're already used to using Facebook the way we use it, and most people aren't going to change. Most people aren't going to go through that long list of "friends" on Facebook and start sorting them. Because Google+ had this feature prominently highlighted at inception, almost everybody has been filtering as they go, and it's super duper easy. How many Average Joe-types on Twitter use the "lists" feature, do you reckon? I'm willing to bet a lot fewer than you think, Mr Twitter Poweruser.

Superstar

Consider the case of Christina Trapolino. Christina is not a tech guru with years of experience. She's not a celebrity. She's not some Tila Tequila-esque sex-symbol. Yet Christina is in being followed by 19,888 people on Google+. How what why? Christina was good at starting conversations. She had some interesting ideas and posed some interesting questions. People started following, discussing, and resharing. She posts almost daily, and her posts always generate a ton of discussion. She is a normal person who now has a serious audience. Her story is far from unique. While 20K followers doesn't sound like much compared to Twitter or Facebook numbers, it's important to remember that this is early days. Big names like Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page are still under 600,000 people following them, but as a factor of the whole, that's not so bad.

Christina's story brings up an important point about the user base and user expectation. In many ways Google+ is a hybrid between Facebook and Twitter, and people are using it accordingly. They can get a feel for what's happening in their areas of interest a la Twitter, but then they can engage more deeply, a la Facebook, if they choose to do so. It doesn't seem hacked together, it seems like a good and smart marriage, and people are using it intelligently.

Sights and Sounds

Sharing photos, videos, and links is exactly 4386 times better on Google Plus than it is on Twitter. It's science fact. You don't have to click any nebulous, shortened html links (which I hate). Photos (single or multiple) display in line, video integration (especially with YouTube) is excellent, and links to web pages display nice previews. As far as Instant Upload on the mobile apps goes, well, the degree to which iCloud gets it wrong is the degree to which Google+ gets it right. It's super-intuitive, fast, and pro-privacy. Facebook and Twitter have no answer to it. Working with, viewing and sharing photos is a terrific experience on Google+.

Then there's Google+ Hangouts, the built-in video chat. As much as we like to make fun of it around the office for being dorky and not so beautiful, it's also what we turn to most often when we need to set up a quick video conference, and most of the time it works pretty well. When I was stuck indoors during Hurricane Irene, I used it to watch YouTube videos with various friends around the country. Common use cases aside, I offer you the example of Google using Hangouts to create something truly wonderful. Behold this full-on gigglefest between the Dalai Lama and the Reverend Desmond Tutu.

Look, I'm not saying that Google+ has replaced Facebook and Twitter for me. It hasn't, yet. Facebook, for me, is a friends-only zone. My Facebook page is private and it's for people I know in the physical world. Twitter is for getting a quick snapshot of the collective consciousness of the internet, for shameless self-promotion, and for being clever and pithy. That said, if Google+ had the active user base that Twitter does I would switch over and never look back. Why? Because Google+ can do everything that Twitter does but better, and it can do a ton of stuff that Twitter can't.

So, yes, Google+ is a strange amalgamation of things and it isn't quite sure what it wants to be yet. It still lacks some features, the mobile apps still need a lot of improvements, and it needs some refining. I'm OK with that for now. We have high expectations from Google, but consider for a moment how many years it took Facebook to evolve to where it is. Google+ is months old, not years. It's good now, and it will get better. To write Google+ off this early is extremely premature. Let's not assume the ship is going to sink just because it's drizzling.


Comments

    agreed, I love google plus, it was simple for me to understand, I KNOW who is getting what information I post and the limits that it will travel most of all, I know who can see my photos and contacts, I like that sense of control in such an open space, and really appreciate the simplicity and privacy allowed while communicating openly, thankyou Google.

    Finally a good article on the merits of G+, sick of the bashing coming from facebook fan's saying "facebook does it better".

    G+ fills the void perfectly between facebook and twitter and is only as boring as you make it.
    Im not a fan of social networking, but i find that G+ sits perfectly into what i would use social networking for.

    Its good to see someone on GIZ take a good look at what G+ actually accomplishes instead of bashing it for not being facebook, was getting sick of the G+ bashing from people who obviously haven't used it for more than 10 minutes.

      Filling a void no one wanted filled.

        And yet its done it so well that its made us glad to have that void filled. Sure I wasn't calling out for something between FB and Twitter but now I think it's awesome its there. There's things I wouldn't have seen and people I wouldn't have communicated with that I'm glad I have now thanks to G+

        Incorrect, i wanted it filled and so did 90% of the people i know, anyone one worth there salt in the IT/audio visual/or marketing industry's can see the merits of social networking when done right, and G+ has done just that.

        most of my friends hate Facebook cos its a clusterfuck of useless info, and twitter as direct as it is doesn't have enough useful info.

        Funny, no one knew they wanted a tablet computer until the iPad dropped... Filling a void that doesn't exist isn't always a bad thing...

          LOL, comparing G+ to the iPad. FAIL.

          One is uber successful and the other isn't. Can you guess which is which?

            Hhhmmmm, there's a certain pattern with your recent posts. Not sure what.

            "LOL, comparing G+ to the iPad. FAIL.
            One is uber successful and the other isn’t. Can you guess which is which?"

            "[regarding Apple] Why spend more on R&D when the competitors just flat out steal their ideas anyway?

            Apple tests the waters, makes something successful and everyone else steps in and rides their coattails to success."

            "LOL, Android fanboys cry into their hands. Can’t argue with these figures."

            Seriously, what are you, 12? Your rampant tribalism is completely shameless and you're posting with the same glee a child has in the schoolyard, when he says his chosen console is undoubtedly superior to another kid's. If you're not going to provide anything enriching, then tone it down. You're embarrassing people on all sides of the tech fanbase.

              Apple has sold somewhere in the range of 30 million ipads and Google+ has 50 million users in 1/5 the time. Looks like we have a winner! You were right Steve, Google+ is uber successful.

    I've signed up, and so did a few of my friends. But I never check it. All of my friends are still on Facebook. I don't get 'circles'.

    And all of my friends are on Facebook.

      I hate facederp, but as only 1 of my friends has signed up for g+ I'm forced to keep my facederp account :'(

      I guess that means that Google+ isn't the product for you.
      Generally thats the way it works in the real world, there's different products out there all doing the similar things but their different feature sets will mean that one is more suitable than the others.
      In this case the fact that all of your friends are on facebook and not google+ is a pretty good indication that google+ isn't the one for you

    google+ is good, and useful. I've worked out that facebook is for wankers. designed and owned by wankers.

    Somehow you've managed to put into words what I've been thinking for the last week and wanted to blog about today. Really nice. Back to square one for me! LOL!

    Would love to try it out, but still can't because they have not enabled public profiles on Google Apps accounts.

    I love it, but my "social graph" will never come over to it because they don't allow pseudonyms. And I love talking politics, and my friends won't talk politics under their real names, preferring to keep professional and personal bits separate. Some of them work in politics, some as teachers, some as lawyers, and some as psychiatrists and other professions where speaking out on some issues can be dicey. Google does not get this. So, I like it as an authoring system -- and then I post my g+ posts to Facebook. D'oh.

      Well, that is exactly what circles are for. If you post to a circle, noone outside that circle will see your post.
      Have a look at an explanation by Google itself at http://www.slideshare.net/padday/the-real-life-social-network-v2. Or see this 1 minute video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocPeAdpe_A8

    People just keep adding and adding and adding me on Google + at a far faster rate than ever happened on Twitter or Facebook. I've already got way more people following me on Google +

    Facebook is mainly for friends and people I know through other social communities and activities, it's useful as far as it goes for keeping up with people and organising get-togethers etc, but does have limitations. And Twitter is always a little spammy- The privacy barrier is lower so it's better for promotional stuff, but too short to be useful.

    Google+ does everything better. Hardly any of my friends are on it, but it exceeds at work/promotional stuff/contacts for me.

    As someone who does not have facebook and do not want facebook, I signed up for Google+ and waited and waited to find people to add. If you are not the type of person that cares what total randoms ( famous people or wanna be famous people)think or are doing, then there is absolutely no content on the site. After 8 weeks of looking, i had no one in my circles. I had a few friends that i know have google, but if they have generic names like tom smith and they live in australia instead of america, good luck finding them. the site only seems to suggest people with that name in america. After countless tries, and after 8 weeks, i decided that google+ was not going to be the social network for me, and closed my account.

      Google+ isn't for joining and then just sitting back and waiting...
      If you want your friends on there too then you have to get them on there- send invites to their e-mail or ask them in the social networks that you normally contact them in!

      For me, I already had friends on there. I also posted stuff about myself and my interests (graphic design, digital art etc), along with my art and now other digital artists add ME to THEIR networks.

      If you have an interest like that and could benefit from networking, then that's how you can use it. If you're passive and want stuff to come to you, then yeah, that's probably not your scene.

        I think i sent about 40 or so invites to mates that i would be interested to have on Google, and no one wanted to join.

        I suppose i do run in circles where not a lot of my friends have any social networking presence ( and no, i am not 70 years old, we are all early twenties) haha. Maybe if there was more buzz about google, more of my mates would have accepted the invite.

    G+ = Ghost town. No one care.

    Move along, nothing to see here.

      no one care? how do you know? I care, in fact I rarely use FB any more, most of my friends are on G+, along with acquaintances and family. We all think it's better, I use FB for 1 group we have, as soon as G+ has groups I'll be closing my FB account.

    if only it worked with Google Apps......
    It would be great for work

      Google apps for Android? If that's what you mean, then there are a couple.

    Not too sure bout G+ at the moment, not really used it much as haven't had the time up until now. But now that i have some spare moments i'm gonna look into it.
    Must say i am finding it rather hard to find stuff going on around me (I've just moved from uk to adelaide) but i'll keep at it for the time being.

    You forget that facebook also filled a void that was never there and so did twitter. Business used to be about satisfying customers needs now a days it can also be about creating customer needs and then satisfy those needs.

    I use G+ and I tried using circles, but found them pointless. And I don't like it when other people use them for posting, because then I can't share the result publicly and I have no idea what circles they shared it with. I end up going back and sharing the raw link again.

    not to mention that it is a beta

    Sadly, as much as I like Google+, every time I add people to my circles they disappear within a few days making it totally useless and utterly frustrating.

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