My thoughts on Google Plus: Facebook done right, but a bit deserted

google_plus_logoIt’s been a bit over a year since I first signed up for Google+, Google’s social media competitor to Facebook and Twitter.

For the most part, Google+ feels like “Facebook done right.” Among Google+’s positive aspects:

  • The design feels cleaner than Facebook’s, and a lot slicker. Some aspects of Facebook feel bolted on (when a new feature’s added), hard to find, or unintuitive.
  • Privacy settings are a big plus over Facebook. It’s easier to set desired posts to only be read by certain groups (or “circles” in Google+-speak), plus the general privacy settings are easier to access and use than Facebook’s. Also, unlike Facebook, Google+’s privacy settings don’t change constantly and intrusively.
  • Google+ ties into existing Google services well, including Android. This might relate to Google using Google+ as a “replacement” for some of its now-shuttered services (like Google Reader), or part of the attempt to boost Google+’s profile.
  • Google+’s Community groups are fairly active, with discussion groups for a range of topics.
  • Google+ has a very nice Android app.
  • Linking to my blog posts on Google+ (and, where appropriate, in some Community groups) helps in terms of promotion. Not always by a ton, but it’s a nice bit of a traffic boost.
  • No intrusive or grotesquely off-topic ads showing up in my feed, unlike Facebook. The fact that Facebook plans to install auto-playing video ads makes Google+ look even better.
  • Hangouts, Google+’s video chat feature, seems to be the biggest breakout success for Google+, and often the one reason anyone uses it at all. I’m not a Hangouts user, however.

One downside of Google+ is its biggest problem: Google+’s “ghost town” image. Few others I know actually use Google+; most of the people I know seem rooted to either Facebook or Twitter. Thus, the people in my circles are largely either companies, sites, celebrities, etc. I follow (Engadget, Marvel Comics, etc.) or people I’ve met through Google+ Community groups. On top of that, not all companies or sites use Google+, of course… and a few of the entities that do haven’t updated their Google+ pages in a long time.

Another downside is that there’s no customizable usernames for profile URLs; instead, it’s partially an unwieldy, long string of numbers. This seems like a rather gross oversight on Google’s part in my opinion, and might contribute to making it difficult to attract users. It’s also bizarre to see in 2013 a lack of such an URL feature. Google+ is slowly rolling out username-based URLs for users, but so far it’s mostly for companies and celebrities, not the average user.

Other than the above complaints, I’m enjoying using Google+. I’m still on Twitter and Facebook, but will stick with Google+ for the foreseeable future. One final note: if you wish to add me to your Google+ circles, here’s my profile:

https://plus.google.com/u/0/108111803643552573264/

 

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