As an old time BBS user I tend to be cynical about every new site that comes along, but not only did Google+ impress me — but it passed the ultimate test: It just ate most of my weekend. On the surface the program seems like a slightly updated version of Facebook, but as you begin to explore and really live with the program you start to realize that it’s so much more than that.
The one thing i always hated about Facebook is that while it made you use your real identity, it forced you to share your entire world with everyone that you know. So something that might be appropriate for your personal friends might not be something you want to share with say co-workers or family members. In fact you might not even want those two groups to meet each other. Google+ solves that by allowing you to create circles — so for example my anime pals don’t need to meet my tech buddies (although I can overlapping members in both groups if I want).
My prediction is that this won’t be the end of Facebook — but it is the beginning of Facebook turning turning into AOL. Like MySpace before it the cool kids will move away from Facebook — in fact some people already feel that the cool kids have left Facebook. And what’s interesting is that the people I see playing with Google+ are most of the early adopters from the tech scene that made Twitter take root in the early days of of those SXSW festivals before Ashton Kutcher and CNN took over the place.
In fact I think if Google+ is an immediate threat to anybody it is Twitter. Unlike Facebook Twitter has been slow to innovate and can still produce a fail whale every now and then: What’s amazing to me about Google+ is that it’s in closed beta and felt 1000% more stable and responsive than Twitter. And then added to that Google+ is a great canvas to share photos and the like with your friends — in fact you can just drag and drop images onto the browser. Google+ starts to almost feel like an app while everybody else feels like your living in an static html page.
In fact once you start using Google+ Twitter feels like a mess because your stream of friends feels like they lack a context. Twitter added lists after a while, but they were kind of late to the game and that addition feels like a hack — especially when you can add someone to a list but not follow them. By starting with a blank canvas Google+ really gives your many social circles context. And as social media evolves context is everything.
I have to admit that I was very cynical about Google+ until I tried it. Google has had such a bad track record with social media be it Orkut or Buzz, but it looks like this time that the third try was the charm. And what kills me is that I’ve been looking a beta, if Google is smart (and they’re filled withs mart people) we’ll see features roll out over the next few months. In fact as they start to integrate their existing offerings into Google+ like Gmail their platform will be unstoppable.