by Ben Parr
The web is still talking about Google+, the search giant’s new social initiative and answer to Facebook. Now that it has been out in the wild for a few days, people have had some time to assess Google’s social network, especially where it hits a home run and where it strikes out.
We’ve already written a review about Google+, but we were curious about what early Google+ users thought about it. So we decided to ask a circle on Google+ about what they believe is good and bad about Google+. And they delivered: we got more than 100 responses about the pros and cons of Google’s new social layer.
SEE ALSO: REVIEW | PHOTOS | VIDEOS | POLL: What do you think of Google+?
Let’s be clear: Google+ is in its infancy, and many of the things they mentioned are part of future releases or bugs that Google intends to fix. Still, the conversation we’ll provide a look into where Google’s social networking is succeeding and where it comes up short against its competitors.
Here are some of the pros and cons of Google+, according to its users:
Pro: Gorgeous UI
Many Google+ users commented on the sleekness of its user interface. It’s clean, it’s easy-to-use and its not cluttered. A big reason for this is Andy Hertzfeld, one of the original designers of the Apple Macintosh GUI. Google gave him free reign in designing the Google+ UI.
Here is what some Google+ said about the UI:
“The UI is definitely top notch. It seems Google has finally gotten it right. The selective sharing seems to work much more intuitively.” ~ Cheryl Allin
“This is a shiny awesome toy with a kickass UI and amazing bonus features like Sparks and Huddle.” ~Cassius Wright
“Excellent UI that is simply but powerful.” ~ Will Hucks
“I love it for its clean UI and how it seamlessly integrates into rest of Google. Finding stream notification from gmail is really cool.” ~ Sudha Jamthe
“It’s extremely clean and devoid of advertising or spam, something that has been slowly creeping into Facebook making it more of a cluttered mess.” ~ Aaron Clark
Our Take: The UI is better than most Google products. It’s not only clean and easy to understand, but it has character and flavor (you’ll notice it when adding or removing people from circles). Their bet on Hertzfeld paid off.
Con: Noise in the Stream
Google+ is designed to minimize noise in the stream through the use of circles, but it’s still too noisy for most users. The big issue is that posts are pushed to the top whenever there’s a new comment, something that most users think is unnecessary. There are also still issues with collapsing posts with long comment threads.
Here are some users’ thoughts on the noise level in Google+:
“Feed shows recently updated regardless of original post time rather than posts in a chronological order.” ~Steven Crader
“Timeline needs to be customizable especially when following high-profile people.” ~ Spencer Scott
“There should be choices on how to view a stream feed. > (1) newest post, (2) newest comment, (3) censored by google+ (oops, I mean relevance)” ~ Phil Staudt
“I don’t like that I don’t have the option to choose whether I want my feed to come up as items jumping to the top when there’s a new comment or when something new is just added to my feed. I don’t think I’ll be reading every single comment people leave.” ~ Kelly Ryder
“Posts aren’t in chronological order. I keep seeing the same things I’ve seen since yesterday because they have a lot of +1?s and new content is occasionally interspersed throughout the stream.” ~ Zac Witte
“Noisy threads like this one that keep popping to the top of my stream!” ~ Hillel Fuld
Our Take: Google+ needs to stop bumping posts to the top of the stream anytime there’s a comment, and this change needs to be implemented as soon as possible. There needs to be a way to see “top stories” from your stream. Yes, it’s a Facebook feature, but it’s a really good Facebook feature.
Pro: Circles Is Slick
User reaction to Circles, Google+’s friend list feature, has been very positive overall. Users have commented that it’s the easiest system on the market for putting friends into groups, making it easier to share posts with just your business colleagues or your family.
Here are some of their thoughts on Google Circles:
“Selective content pushing and intake with groups is awesome.” ~ Kayvan Farzeneh
“Circles are huge. They solve the reason I don’t use Facebook.” ~ Chris Heald
“I love that Circles makes it so much less creepy for me to befriend random people online.” ~ Jonathan Davis
“The ability to quickly and easily group people (across multiple circles) means that the communications you have with others will be more relevant when choosing to share a message with a specific circle. I imagine this will be extremely helpful in minimizing the noise.” ~ Jodi Echakowitz
Our Take: Google+ Circles is well designed and far superior to Facebook friend lists or Twitter Lists. However, we’re in the camp that people don’t want to organize their friends, no matter how gorgeous the UI. It’s just a tedious task no matter how you approach it.
Con: Doesn’t Work With Google Apps
During a Google+ Hangout session I had with Google VP of Product Management Bradley Horowitz, I learned that the biggest piece of feedback so far is that users want to use Google+ with their Google Apps accounts. It makes sense — people are attached to their email addresses, and many people (like us) primarily use email addresses linked to Google Apps accounts.
Most of the comments we saw about this problem looked like this:
“I cannot use it with my Google Apps account.” ~ Stefan Sarzio
“I cannot use with Google Apps. ” ~ Aakar Anil
Our Take: Google should make this a top priority.
Pro: Google+ Hangouts
The one feature that has stood out above all the other Google+ features is Hangouts. Hangouts, which lets up to 10 users simultaneously video chat with each other, has been a hit with the early Google+ beta testers.
Instead of creating a group video chat system where you reach to your friends to chat, users instead create “hangouts” that pop up on their feeds. Users can then join those hangouts. That small change in how group video chat is done has proven to be a winner:
“The actual design of the interface is slick, and Hangouts are cool as a get-out.” ~ Christopher Carfi
“Hangouts. ‘Nuff said.” ~ PaulDavid Shrader
“You can make circles of just people you are working with; do a 10 person video chat with them, group mobile messaging, google chat, etc. So far very useful for collaboration and with a few tweeks could be near perfect.” ~ Dillon Rhodes
Our Take: Hangouts is Google+’s killer feature. With a few tweaks, it could be an amazing video platform.
Con: Lack of Search
Google is known for search, so why doesn’t it have a search engine for finding content your friends are sharing? That’s the question a lot of users are asking:
“I have to say that for the King Kong of search to release a social service that is presently not searchable – strikes me as a little odd and noteworthy.” ~ Wayne Schulz
“Leaves a little to be desired when filling out profile information, would be nice to see cohesive search tools.” ~ Carl V. Lewis
“Searching for people in the top field opens a new tab instead of displaying results in the stream.” ~ Lenny Neslin
Our Take: It’s not a big deal now that Google+ doesn’t have Stream search, but Google had better put it on the list of things to implement in the next two months if it hasn’t done so already.
Pro (and Con): Google+ Is Everywhere
Google SVP of Social Vic Gundotra told Mashable that the company named its social platform Google+ because it’s designed to be an extension of Google. The plus sign is just a small addition to the Google logo because the search giant wants people to think of Google+ as just Google.
As part of that initiative, Google+ is on every Google product. Google+ notifications appear in Gmail, Google Docs and almost every Google products. We wouldn’t be surprised to see it pop up on YouTube sometime in the future, either.
Most people seem to like that Google+ is accessible no matter where they are, but some have expressed their reservations about it. Some people don’t want their email and their search to be social in any way. The result is that the ubiquity of Google+ has created a sharp divide:
“It’s everywhere. Checking mail, G+ is there, Addind calendar entries, G+ is there.” ~ Patrik Björklund
“G+ is nearly ubiquitous. It’s present across all the google tabs I keep open anyway.” ~ Rob Michael
“I work in Google. I don’t need an annoying thing at the top of the page telling me that I need to go do something. If I wanted that, I would head over to plus.google.com and see.” ~ David Aronchick
“I use Gmail and Google Reader a lot and with Google+ I get notifications, can comment and interact with my circles, without leaving the Google tool I use at this time. I call this efficient!” ~ Jan Firsching
“Cons: Integrates with the Google ecosystem.” ~ Ciro Villa
Our Take: Google is smart to integrate Google+ into every part of its empire — it creates engagement and reinforces that Google intends to be social. It needs to provide assurances that private emails and private search remain private, though. How to do that may be one of its toughest challenges.