I’ve been two weeks into Google+ and I’ve made a few posts about it on both twitter and google+ (and facebook for that matter) but after a week of use I have formed some more concrete thoughts.
What it does better than Twitter
Google+ allows more levels of post privacy. In Twitter, what you say is visible to everyone unless you protect your tweets from the public stream; doing so, though, means that to see your tweets people have to follow you to opt in. I think there is some value in saying things publicly vs. to people you know are following your posts. Google+ takes this further in that you can make groups (circles, in their parlance) to post to people that you know or approve in multiple contexts. The burden is, of course, on you to manage these groups.
The Circles mechanic is implemented a bit better than Twitter’s lists in that the posts go both ways (you can restrict posts to a list of followers and you can view posts from a list of followers), and using it seems like a planned feature while Twitter’s lists still feels not fully implemented. This is especially true if you see the differences in functionality between the mobile, web, and desktop applications. Circle membership is pretty clear. What’s not obvious is that you can restrict the visibility of that membership, but that’s possible too.
Hosting pictures on G+’s service (Picasa) is smoother than the image hosting sites that Twitter pushes you to use: moby, imageshack, twitpic, imgur, yfrog, lockerz, etc. Twitter is finally readying an official image hosting partner in photobucket.
What it does worse that Twitter
As far as I can tell you can’t be anything other than a Firstname Lastname real person in Google+. This disallows companies, brands, and annoying anonymous folks from being in Google+… but it also means it’s probably no-go for some celebrities like Cher, local companies which I think are at the forefront of some of Twitter’s buzz, and people that just want to keep an online persona separate from their real name for a number of reasons. This is kind of a big deal, and I’ll get to what that implies later.
The reshare feature is similar to a retweet, but one thing it doesn’t appear to do is link back to the original share. It creates a new thread based on your stream. This is interesting because it means you don’t see any of the discussion of the original share which is probably done because the original sharer loses control over the content since he or she can no longer limit the scope of the original share.
There’s no tagging like Twitter’s hashtags. This mainly makes it hard to search for tweets that might be related (especially if the discussions are broken by reshares), but there doesn’t seem to be a search right now… Google: not doing search. Film at 11.
What it does better than Facebook
The Circles thing. See above. It’s really it’s distinguishing feature. In Facebook you have Friends… and that’s it. All your friends in Facebook are the same weight, and they can all see each other and their posts to you. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but think of teachers. Friending kids and/or their parents could be disastrous when your long lost college drinking buddy tags a picture of your 21st birthday party. How many people friend their coworkers and colleagues?
There’s no Wall. The wall and the fact all friends are the same level makes it everyone’s opportunity to be embarrassed.
There’s few apps. While the Hangout and Huddle apps are somewhat interesting, it’s mostly a status and commenting system, which if implemented correctly has a lot of potential. I’ve found the apps and games in Facebook are just another avenue for status noise, if not outright spam, exploits, and hacks. While I am not so naive to say Google+ won’t ever be hacked, by not having a lot of extra features they may prevent it.
There are pretty clear terms of service and privacy tools. There is a Data Liberation link to easily make backups of the profile for nostalgia (or migration?) – Facebook only recently turned this on, and there are apps that will do that in Twitter, too.
They don’t have a spotty history of privacy changes… yet.
What it does worse that Facebook
There’s no Wall. I’m ambivalent if this is purely good or purely bad. I don’t generally post on the walls of others, but that’s because I understand the embarrassment potential of the wall, so I’m a polite citizen. I will wish folks Happy Birthday on Facebook (assuming they post their birthday on their profile), but no way to do that on G+ at the moment.
What it all means
I see two pretty good conclusions about the distinguishing factors vs. the dominant social networks so far. First, I think Google+ is set up pretty well to let you make your online persona more like your real persona. I think people are (or should be?) reasonably concerned with privacy, security, and their online reputation, and the extra posting controls in Google+ give people a little more room to be more real. When it comes to things like social change, this is where the rubber meets the road. If people can say what they believe, even to a slightly restricted audience, then it means they can live with a little more integrity which should fuel richer, more honest discussion. Now, before I get too hippy-dippy, the other conclusion I’ve come to is social media’s success is highly based on trust.
I didn’t trust Facebook, and it looks like that was the right answer given their numerous changes to terms of service and their habit of rolling out new features with privacy off. I deliberately obscure a lot of identifying background information. Misuse of private data, identity theft, and other junkiness targets low hanging fruit, so unless someone is specifically targeting me for very nefarious reasons, I consider myself reasonably secure. If I’m to put the real me online, am I ready to trust Google+ ?
I don’t know yet.
I’m going to play with circles and posting limited vs. public to see if there’s any different interactions. Once Google+ comes out of beta and people start using it in earnest maybe there will be more data to go on.