* Disclaimer – I didn’t receive any compensation to endorse Google or Google + I only wanted to give my insight and honest opinion.*
Not long ago critics were giving Google a fits about the social media flops of Google Buzz and Google Wave. I purchased my first desktop in February of 2002 and ever since I’ve been been a Google user. I remember grabbing a Gmail invite off ebay back in July of 2004 and I was hooked. When Google Wave launched September 2009 I received an invite and the next I know I got everyone I work signed up on it. We used Wave as an internal collaborative tool for new server launches and upgrades so we were all bummed to see Google say good-bye to Wave. When Google Buzz launched in February of last year I thought that Google had overcome their social media jinx and were on their way. I was totally wrong especially when things fell apart so early for Google when the privacy issue arose and people abandoned ship immediately.
Fast forward to July 2011 and Google + is the craze for many on the web. I’ve watched the news feeds as the total number of users climbed to 20 million. After the news of the number of Google + users reaching 18 million a report came back saying the traffic measured last week was only 1.5 million. Google had a huge advantage over Twitter and Facebook because they already had such a large database of Google account users already. The growth numbers are impressive to a point yet they don’t prove anything other than Google + is the new cool kid on the social media block.
I was never a fan of Facebook even though I have an account. I only signed up to be able to keep in contact with family in other states. When I first gained access to Google + I was pleased to see the clean not clutter user interface. Facebook is absolutely miserable with all the garbage they throw at you. I’ve probably blocked just about every non-essential part of Facebook. I know millions of people love to waste their day on Facebook but I never once logged in with the intention of playing Farmville. I’ve read where it leaked out that Google intends to insert some games into Google +. I really hope Google keeps it low key and doesn’t flood the user’s account and gives them the chance to block it all.
Google + Circles are great because I enjoy being able to lump my contacts from both online and in the real world in their own little … well circles, lol. One example of my online contacts circled is I already followed Lee Williams of Hoptopia fame on Twitter so I linked up with him on Google +. The number of people ( Google + users of course ) I’ve been able to converse with about craft beer through Lee’s connection is amazing. I’ve been using Facebook for a few years and I’ve never once had that type of interaction with a specific group of users. My family circle on the other hand, which are all Facebook users have been quite slow to adapt to Google +. I honestly believe that majority of them have just started to figure the whole Facebook thing out and they aren’t particularly in a hurry to have to learn something else.
I recently experimented with the Google + Hangout with my friend and we had a great time using it. We both have Kindergarten age daughters and they particularly enjoyed using the Hangout function of Google +. Like everyone else I’ve used Skype plenty of times but I enjoyed that I could easily access Hangout right inside of Google + without having to go log into another program. I will admit the day I tested Hangout an update was apparently released that required a plug-in and it annoyed the heck out of me because it seemed no matter how many times I installed the plug-in that Hangout didn’t want to display my video on my Windows 7 (64bit) machine. I eventually had to fire up my Windows XP netbook and log into Hangout. I learned that Google has since resolved the issue because I tested Hangout tonight and it worked just fine. I recently read about where someone has a Google + Hangout marathon going on and there’s no idea how long they intend to keep it running for. I intend to keep up on their progress and keep tabs on them via their Livestream feed.
So far I’ve enjoyed Google + Photos and how I can click on photos from my circles, photos from my phone, photos of me, and my albums. The recent release of Facebook’s facial recognition software seemed to creep a lot of users out. Google + Photos is easy to use and does essentially the same things Facebook’s Photos does but I like the way it manages them much better. Like Facebook, you can tag people in your photos and manipulate your photos how you want to. I have a friend who informed me this past Friday that he was able to purge every photo/album he’s ever posted on Facebook and put them all on his Google + account. I’ve not yet learned this trick but I intend to check it out very soon.
Google + users all have a messy long profile url so I discovered Google + Nick (they’re not associated with Google) to resolve this little issue. The site manages to chop your Google + profile down from https://plus.google.com/u/0/108503230261783742377/posts to http://gplus.to/jasonr so it’s a lot easier to share.
Google is receiving a fair amount of criticism over their account deletions of corporate accounts. This is due to Google wanting all user based accounts to display your real name and not your internet handle. Complaints are being reported around the web. Google is working quickly to roll out the corporate accounts and Ford Motor Company appeared as a test account recently.
Only time will tell whether the Google + user base will totally abandon Facebook for good or use both platforms. If I can convince at least 90% of my contacts to join and use Google + I would delete my Facebook account. Given the amount of products Google already has I can easily see the continued growth of Google + to skyrocket so Facebook should something way more than Skype integration to entice their user base to stay around. I see a battle of the giants shaping up between Facebook vs. Google + and it will only benefit the end users after it’s all said and done.