The Inevitable Google+ Post
Google has really pulled it off this time. Googler Paul Allen has estimated that Google+ has already surpassed ten million users on July 10. Google has played the “closed beta” game very well, letting in only a small number of people who nevertheless started to flood the internet with posts about Google+, comparing it to Facebook and Twitter, evaluating it, sometimes dismissing it, more often being quite enthusiastic.
So, how is Google+? It’s a lot like Facebook, but it also feels somewhat unfinished. +1s (Google’s version of Facebook “like”) don’t show up in my page yet. The video group chat Hangout is actually quite cool and fun: You see everyone in thumbnail view at the bottom of your chat screen, and you can click on individual members to enlarge them. You have the usual mechanisms, you can post text, photos, videos, links, reshare posts, comment, +1 etc. The topic streams (called “Sparks”) seem to be quite unfinished, too.
For me, the biggest surprise is that there is no real-time search feature, there is only a search box for people (admittedly an important feature to build your network), and Sparks, where it is still a bit unclear of what it does exactly. I see Google+ as being somewhere between Facebook and Twitter, with the structural richness of Facebook but the more open “Public is default” policy of Twitter, and for this real-time search is an indispensable feature for discovery. I don’t use this feature often in Twitter, but when I do, it’s always immensely useful. The first time I realized this was when I was wondering whether the Debian Lenny has been released. I searched for “debian lenny” and directly got all the tweets where people were reporting that they were upgrading, so I knew. Other times, you can ride on the hashtag associated with some event to get real-time updates. These are both things which should be possible with Google+ as well, but currently, they aren’t.
In any case, we should not forget that Google+ is in beta. Sparks will hopefully improve over time, and Google real-time search will surely make a comeback, this time, fed on the Google+ updates. So far, Google has done impressively well (and given their lack of success with Buzz and Wave, suprisingly well) with their new product.