Google+ Vs Facebook - 'Circles' are a treat, no apps a bummer
After a few hours on Google+ we look at how it compares to Facebook on a number of verticals and if we think it will be here to stay.
Google+, originally the exclusive domain of tech doyens is now being rolled out to the public despite a statement by the company saying that they were stalling invites due to 'insane demand'.
Stalled or not however, we have ourselves an invite to Google+ and have been able to play with it for a few hours. Upon entering the site you get a message that states, "You're a part of a small group of people who are helping to test Google+. When you share something with people who are not yet able to use Google+, they will receive it via email but won't be able to comment or engage with the content like other Google+ users. They'll be able to join Google+ as we let more users in over time." It makes you feel important.
Anyway these are our initial impressions of the service itself, and how it compares to Facebook.
1. As you enter:
The "stream" on Google+ is pretty much identical to Facebook's home stream. So on your very first impression there is no discernible difference between the two. However on Google+ you have greater control on what you want to display. Facebook gives you two options for your home feed. You can either choose to see the 'most recent' updates which will pull feeds from EVERYONE on your friend list, or you can use "Top news" which is a stream that Facebook creates for you based on an algorithm by which it determines who is most important to you. On Google+ however, since you are able to control how to classify your friends using 'circles', you can choose to get feeds from everyone or only from people in specific circles. This way you can determine who is more relevant to you and who you want to see. Added bonus - the fact that it's integrated to your gmail means that you get a nice obvious but non intrusive notification above your inbox. Nice. Plus one to Google.
2. Friends and Privacy.
'Circles' on Google+ really are a winner. Here you get to decide which people on your contact lists get access to what information. And you do this by dragging and dropping contacts into little blue circles that you can name whatever you like. Google+ gives you a few "startup" basic circles named "Family" "Friends" and "Acquaintances". But you can get as creative as you want to with names and there is (as far as we can tell so far) no limit to the circles you can make. A lot easier than Facebook groups. The best part is that no one can see the name of the circles you have added them to, so your aunt will never need to know that she is grouped under the "Nosy family - AVOID" circle. Plus one more to Google or so it would seem. BUT there already seems to be a bug in the service as described in this article, which states that the 'resharing' feature on plus allows you to make even private posts public. So equal points to both services there.
Here there is just no competing with Facebook. Google+ integrates with Picasa web albums but come on... how many people use Picasa vis a vis Facebook albums? You can upload photographs etc. but on this one Google has some massive catching up to do. Plus one to Facebook.
4.The social graph
Google+ has its '+1' button that mirrors the Facebook 'like'. And to give it that extra push, it has added little +1 buttons on the Google search results page. Although its much too early to say if it will get the same traction as 'like', it looks capable of giving it some serious competition. And then there is 'Sparks' - which is a personalized RSS feed driven search engine inside Google+. Where Facebook depends on people sharing links with each other, Google+ gives you the option of also finding out news by topic or website as and when it is updated. Plus one for sparks, but we still Like Facebook so plus one there too.
5. The experience
As of right now Google+ is a very lonely place. But that should change once more and more people begin using it and circles widen and expand. It's a little bit like a ghost town at the moment, with status updates that seem to be bordering more on "Hello, is anyone there?" rather than anything else. And for a social network to WORK you need, well - people. And they aren't really in large supply. We withhold our judgement on this one. Also there are no third party applications like Farmville or Mafia wars (though Google is an investor in Zynga that produces Farmville and Cityville). Some people will find that a put off, but will find support among a lot of other exasperated people who don't CARE that you found a lost chocolate brown cow wandering about and decided to give it a home. But this is Google's big push into social, and one can't help but predict that a layer of social gaming will hit us next. And of course, that is always good news for developers, who will certainly be hotter property now.
6. The verdict
So in a nutshell - Google+. Interesting? Yes. Potential? Definitely. Will it overtake Facebook? Um, not any time in the near future. But will it fail? Probably not. It looks like plus has enough to make it a stayer. And we like it, so we're glad.
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