Been a while since I blogged about any techie stuff, but with Google+ now making big waves in the social media scene, I thought I’d put up a quick post about it. I’ve been a big twitter user for a while now, and like most people these days, I’ve used Facebook for years. So when I got an invite to Google+ from a friend I was keen to check it out, especially after hearing some positive things about it online. It sounded like Google had learned from the painful mistakes made with Buzz. I’ve been falling out of love with Facebook for some time. I went through a while where I got into all the casual games, but I eventually fell out of them, and more and more I found myself more interested in just things like status updates and photo sharing.
I’m not going to go into the various privacy worries Facebook has caused over the last few years, but functionally speaking, there was a lot going on in Facebook that just wasn’t interesting me any more. Especially with my feed being cluttered up with updates from various games and apps. In steps Google+ with its circles for organising people you’re following (to borrow the Twitter term). This means by default you can easily filter what you’re looking at in your timeline, just picking a certain circle to view. Not currently possible, although something I’d like to see added, would be the ability to define views that combine circles, and I’m sure that’s something that will come in time.
The thing I really love about Google+ is how it uses these circles to make it easy to define who sees whatever you post. Whenever you share some text, a video or pictures, you have to define who you’re sharing it with. By default it remembers the last circle (or combination of circles and individuals) you used so a lot of the time its not an issue, but when you do want to restrict or open up a post, it means you’ve got a degree of freedom that neither Facebook or Twitter gives you. I’ve long felt the times on twitter where I’d want to rant about something, but felt it may not be appropriate on a public forum that prospective employers may check. Now (as long as I’m not applying to Google 😉 ) I can rant with my friends in freedom.
Another feature that’s really grabbed me is the image sharing (which was one of my main uses of Facebook). Google have tied it into Picasa, so if you’ve got that installed on your desktop, its a cinch to upload photos to web albums and then tag them as shared in Google+. Something I’ve found even more useful though has been the mobile client. It adds an instant upload functionality to your mobile phone (which has options to customise whether its just photos or videos as well, and whether to upload over the mobile network, or wait for wifi), so every photo you take is automatically uploaded to a private Picasa folder. You can then go into the app and you’ll have a notification about the newly uploaded photos, from where you can then share them on Google+. I’ve found it really nice when taking photos of the recent film shoot and wanting to share them with my friends. As long as you’ve got a decent 3G signal for the uploads, its a really easy system.
The group chat functions on offer are nice as well. The huddle functionality brings a nice easy group text chat to mobile phones, although I’d like to see this linked into the web version as well. The web version does however offer Hangouts, an easy to use group video chat system, that lets you and your friends video chat, but also share Youtube videos. I really like the idea of being able to put on a new movie trailer and disect it over the chat at the same time.
So far, I’ve been massively impressed by Google+. And its interesting to see aspects like the finer grain control of who sees individual posts appearing in Facebook. But I’m definitely a convert to Google+. The implementation of the circles, and the photo sharing has really grabbed me as exactly what I’m looking for in a social network. Twitter will remain big with me for its immediacy and simplicity with its 140 characters, but Google+ is great for those more detailed conversations.