Back in April 2011 we said about Google's Plus One button that despite prior failed social attempts, this could be the Big One.
Yesterday, Google's private launch of Google Plus, the social network, proofed us right: the Google Plus One button was only a publicly visible element from the secretly developed Google Plus social network.
WHAT IS GOOGLE PLUS?
- Google Plus is a social network, like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Orkut, Friendster, etc.
- Google Plus is invite only at the moment. 10% testing, 90% marketing ploy.
FEELS VERY GOOD RIGHT FROM THE START
Google Plus feels good. It feels great. The user experience is optimal, right from the start.
The welcome screen does a great job of communicating what Google Plus is and does and where you can go to do what why.
Every screen is well thought out, feels intuitive and smooth.
It feels " just right.
YOUR GOOGLE PLUS PROFILE
Your Google Profile basically becomes your Google Plus Profile. A smart move: it promotes the creation of Google Profiles, essentially.
A privacy gaffe is that by default Google Plus shows on your profile who you have in your circles " although it won't show which circles you have.
While networks like Facebook and Twitter do the same, Google's play on putting you in charge of what you share with whom (see: Google Plus' Circles) should by default extend to the choice whether to show this information on your profile or not.
In both your profile and privacy settings you can remove the listing of this information, if you want.
GOOGLE PLUS' CIRCLES
It's impossible to just "add" people to Google Plus: you add them to a specific circle. Circle as in: circle of friends, or your circle of acquaintances. You can create as many circles as you want and you can easily share per circle as you like.
Unlike with Google Buzz " when Google prepared your social circle by going through your email address book -- nothing is prepopulated. The only automatic action is that Google takes the contacts you blocked in Google Chat and adds them to a special "blocked" circle. That's it. Good job.
Google suggests a bunch of people based on, among other things, who you follow in Google Reader or the soon to be defunct Google Buzz. People added to your circles are also added to Google Reader's people you follow.
You add people by dragging their namecard to the circle you want them to be in.
The namecards of those already added to a circle get a tiny, grey circle in the right-hand bottom corner. A bit too unobtrusive for my older eyes.
No matter who adds you, your "stream" stays empty until you add at least one person to at least one circle.
Once both you and the other party have added each other, your stream starts to populate with their updates, photos and what not.
Adding people to lists quickly becomes a lot of work, the more people and lists you have.
SHARING ON GOOGLE PLUS
Sharing on Google Plus is as easy and simple as sharing on Twitter or Facebook.
Posted links use the meta description or grab some of the first text on the page.
Other Google products, like Picasa, are connected to your account but retain their original privacy settings.
Privacy gaffe #2: By default photos can be tagged by anyone in your circles.
You can take a few actions on posts that appear in your stream.
One of the actions is that you can +1 a post:
Very strange is that Google Plus +1 actions do not appear anywhere in Google Plus. The only place they appear, so far, remains in the tab in your public profile.
SPARKS: A CUTE TOUCH
Sparks ("sparks of interests" Get it?) are topics you can follow. Google Plus curates the content from across the web, not from across your network.
In essence Sparks are Google Alerts but in your Google Plus.
You can pick one of the preselected topics or easily create your own.
Hangouts are places you create or go to when you're ready to, well, hang out.
The idea puts the concept of (group) chat upside down: instead of contacting just anyone on your contact list to see if they want to hang back and chat, you got to a place where it's sure that everyone there wants to chat.
Google Plus is brilliantly named. It's like the better, premium version of Google. "Oh, you have Google? Yeah, I have Google Plus"
It's good. It's really good. Smooth as hell.
It has something Facebook doesn't: the world's largest interest graph of the web. And for the first time it has found a way to mash that graph with people activity: the loop has been closed.
Facebook is a walled garden: Google is the web. Facebook has a limited, manually built graph based on Likes and postings; Google has an automated world-wide graph enhanced with social signals.
In 2005 and even as late as 2007, Google Plus would be the clear winner. Today the question is "so what?" So it slices bread. And? So it's a toaster. Whatever.
Outside of marketing and SEO professionals, who is interested in joining another social network? For what? Grandma sees Jane grow up on Facebook. We follow that family trip via Twitter.
Google Plus' lock-in will come as it closes loops between it and search. In the near future you will get to pick which trusted circles' search recommendations you want to see. Families, friends, coworkers, companies, whole communities will be able to "subscribe" to human curated or human enhanced search results.
If you want to see the future of Google Plus, take Google Realtime Search, Google social search, Google Subscribed Links, Google Custom, and Google Reader's Recommended For You and mash them all together.
If you want to see the future " imagine Google's search page showing a notification that you have new activity in your social network.
If you want to know the future " imagine Google's search page as the integrated hub for search and social.
I wouldn't be surprised to see the option to add boxes or elements to your Google page showing a photo strip from people in your network or a "What's hot in your circles" list of links.
If you want to see how the whole thing would work for ranking, check out How Google Plus One Works For Ranking.
Again; this is part of the Big One we predicted. A Facebook killer? No. A network that will reach a critical mass of its own and for its own purposes? Yes. Google Plus only needs to be as popular (and as fringe) as Gmail or Picasa in order to make it relevant for the web.
Question: did you get an invite and if so, how do you like Google Plus? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
The only fail factor open is; how will Google handle this?