I will lay my cards on the table straight away. I am a big fan of Google. I’m not a “fanboy” by any stretch. There are Google products that I dislike.
But Google+ is a product that I do like.
It seems as if Google+ is still the butt of all jokes, and the popular perception is still that it is the tumbleweed social network. That analysis is too simplistic.
I first began properly using Google+ when I bought a Nexus 10. I opened the Google+ app out of curiosity. Simply, I liked what I saw.
Far from seeing just tumbleweed, I was presented with a host of interesting content from interesting people.
Like many, I signed up for Google+ when it first launched and added people to my circles. But then I went away and didn’t use it for a while.
When I looked in again earlier this year, I was pleasantly surprised to see a small group of those people in my circles that were quite active on Google+ and posting content that I enjoyed. Logging in to a social network and seeing content that was actually interesting was a revelation.
For a long time, Facebook has been almost as pointless as it is ubiquitous. Every time I login to Facebook, I am presented with tedious updates from pages I liked five years ago and never looked at since, a plethora of requests from people I barely know to play a series of mind-numbing games, and dozens of invites to events I would never begin to want to attend.
Worst of all is that around this, the screen is chock full of badly targeted adverts. Just now I’m getting posts from Paddy Power injected into my news feed, all because someone I went to school with but haven’t seen for over ten years likes them on Facebook.
Sadly, Facebook appears to be vital to keep in touch with friends. But beyond that, I really wouldn’t miss Facebook if it were to close down today.
Twitter is a service that I do really enjoy. But it is rather basic. It is not easy to filter the feed, and tweets are almost always presented in chronological order.
If you follow more than a few people, potentially interesting content disappears forever. Twitter is a big, noisy, crowded room. If you don’t happen to be there when the interesting stuff happens, you miss it completely.
Not just about the numbers
Critics will say that the reason Google+ is not like this already is because it has fewer users. But while it’s true that Google+ has fewer users, that’s not the reason I enjoy it more.
The functionality of Google+ is closer to Facebook than Twitter. But its social model is closer to Twitter’s.
The main flaw of Facebook is that it is very strongly biased towards reciprocal relationships. If you want to be someone’s friend on Facebook, they have to want to be friends with you as well. Facebook changed this, but it was too little too late. The entire way people use Facebook is coloured by idea that Facebook is for your real life friends only.
That is what’s great about Twitter. It always allowed for one-way relationships. This has allowed creativity to flourish, as well as making it easier to find and follow people that you are interested in, even if they are not particularly interested in you.
Even so, Twitter is still very basic. You have one stream into which everything goes. A variety of features like lists and hashtags have been retrofitted onto the service, but it’s not enough. So I have to run two Twitter accounts — one for motorsport, and one for everything else. If I didn’t, I would bore those that weren’t interested in my motorsport tweets.
From the very start, Google+’s user-friendly circles concept has done away with all of these issues. It is exceptionally easy to select who gets to see which items you post. This is something Facebook could learn a lot from.
Not just about friends
Google+ is not a social network in the same way that Facebook is. Very few of my real life friends are active on Google+.
It is more like Twitter, in that I follow people with shared interests. Moreover, it is easy to filter the feed. I have circles for motorsport, web, higher education web, music, politics and more. So if I’m in the mood to see what people are saying about motorsport, it’s easy to do.
This is complemented by the communities feature. You don’t even need to follow someone, or even know of the person to follow them, to see decent content based on your interests.
Google+ is where I go to see news about Android, spectacular photography, and what fans are saying about Formula 1.
What I also love about Google+ is the fact that it is still innovating. It is still experimenting with what a social network can be, and coming up with creative new features that you won’t find elsewhere.
Auto-Awesome is just one example. You can automatically create pretty animated gifs simply by taking a series of similar-looking photos on your phone. All of your photos are automatically backed up, privately. Then Auto-Awesome does the rest, ready for you to share if you wish. It is awesome.
I also hugely appreciate the way Google+ integrates so well with other Google services like Android, Gmail and Google Calendar.
The largest small community
I have seen a few website owners belittling Google+ because it sends a small amount of traffic to their website. What doesn’t seem to have occurred to them is that this might be precisely the appeal of Google+.
I am tired of Facebook exactly because it is full of links to idiotic articles that I’m not interested in. Google+ contains links to fewer articles, but more that I am actually interested in. It’s about the quality, not the quantity.
Using Facebook and Twitter is like being in a giant, heaving Wetherspoons. Logging into Google+ is like participating in all of my little hobby groups simultaneously. That’s why I enjoy using it.