Has the shine already worn off? Assessing Google+ with a Critical Eye

So Google+ is slightly less shiny and new, which means one thing… people have had time to find aspects of the product to complain about.

How has Google already managed to offend an optimistic public? A public so hopeful… so willing to abandon Facebook for a younger and more exclusive social network? Let us count the ways…

1. There is no such thing as a private profile.

No really, I mean it. You might think you have a private profile- after all you checked that little box- but soon your profile will either be public, or nonexistent. So unless you want your profile deleted at the beginning of August, you’ll uncheck that box. After July 31 private profiles will not be tolerated.

2. Google+’s circles are a step in the right direction, but they don’t solve the problem.

The idea is to give users as much control over their information and profiles as possible. Google certainly solves part of the problem with their ‘circle’ feature, but they don’t explore all of the possibilities. Stephen Shankland points out that although the ‘circles’ are an improvement on what is perceived to be Facebook’s all or nothing approach, it still lacks the versatility one might expect.

Then of course there’s the other side of the coin; Google+’s circles aim to combine the advantages of Facebook’s groups and its privacy settings, and then streamline them into one easy tool. Yet, not all feedback has been good. By combining the two the new network has opened the door to a new set of frustrations. People have no idea how others have categorized them, rather than a mutual and clear agreement (like a group or a friendship on Facebook) their relation to other users becomes more complex.

If you’re looking for a more in-depth explanation of exactly how the circles feature works, Liz Gannes breaks it down in her article.

3. Oh the bugs…

To be fair, Google+ is still in a testing stage, so it’s expected that there would be a few glitches in the system. For instance, some users found that when they attempted to publish information for a particular circle, it was accidentally made public. Mistakes like this defeat the entire purpose of Google’s improvements. Reportedly, Google has been very diligent about dealing with these errors.

Is Google+ still a major threat?

Absolutely. In the days since Google+’s initial release, users have also had time to discover some unexpected advantages of the new product. Simon Mackie writes that the social platform could find a place in businesses. He notes that the circle feature provides a great way to manage contacts, while the hangout application allows groups to video conference. Still, even he admits that Google+ is in a testing stage and has a long way to go before other business management programs need to feel threatened.

Facebook does not appear to feel the heat yet either. Perhaps this is because Mark Zuckerberg is the most followed user on Google+. Additionally, Facebook has already announced changes to the site that will combat some of Google+’s appeal, including a new group chat feature and of course the ability video-chat through Facebook with the help of Skype.

The Near Future

Several recent articles have pointed out that music could be a deciding factor in the battle between the two networks. So far, Facebook hasn’t made any major moves toward including music services in the Facebook design. Google could use this absence as another opportunity to offer a feature Facebook lacks. If video chat is the current battle in the social networking war, then perhaps the next is music. This possibility is supported by rumors that Facebook seems to be developing a new music service, evidence of which was found in some Facebook code. Still no such project has been officially announced, and the above is simply speculation.

What does all this garble mean? Well, my opinion remains the same: whichever social network wins out, the competition means both Google and Facebook are driven to provide a better product to everyday users.

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