Initial Thoughts on Google+

I keep getting emails in my inbox that people have added me to their Google+ circle.  I have social network exhaustion having moved from Friendster and Ryze to MySpace and LinkedIn and on to Orkut and then to Facebook.  I really have no desire to ever sign up for another social network ever.  But I also don't feel that Facebook is the end-all be-all and the biggest issue I have with them is not their shady privacy policies but rather there is no good way for me to manage the reality that my social graph is not and should not be entirely connected.

I do make use of Facebook groups to keep my friends, professional contacts, childhood friends, and others separate but it's imperfect.  I actually don't go out much any more but if I did I wouldn't want one of my friends to tag me in a compromising photograph and have it visible to my professional contacts.  But on the other hand I don't necessarily want to hide all pictures of myself from my colleagues.  Yet this is the choice Facebook offers me.

Since Google+ has been taking off in user adoption (see graph) and their Circles feature helps segment one's social graph, I thought I'd give it a look.  Unfortunately the main Google account that I use is the Apps for Domains account I have with  Yet Google Apps for Domains does not support Google Profiles so it's not possible to use Google Plus with my standard Google account.  Instead I have to log in with my old GMail account.  That's the main drawback that has prevented me from checking out the service prior to today.  They really need to fix that because I don't see myself constantly switching Google accounts to go between my email and Google+ pages.

That complaint aside, once I did get logged in to the service it actually is pretty good.  It would be nice to have a setting that tagged photos of someone in one of my circles would only be visible to my other friends in that circle and I didn't see that feature.  Still I do like the approach Google has taken with Circles in that in order to add someone on Google Plus I have to select a circle grouping for them.  That is a much closer analog to how my relationships work in real life.  People can be in more than one circle, as in real life.  Some of my professional colleagues are also friends, while others it's simply a professional relationship.

I also like the idea that adding someone to a circle is asymmetrical.  Just because I add someone does not mean they have to add me.  This is a good mix of the traditional social networking symmetric confirmation relationships and the follow idiom from Twitter.

When I share content in Google Plus I also have to select its visibility every time.  This is good as it forces me to make a conscious decision about who I am sending this to.  That option exists with Facebook but it's not required so I usually skip it.  Interestingly, I have shared two updates on Google+ and because I had to select the sharing visibility I actually set both to Public.  I don't think I have ever made anything public on Facebook.

None of my connections happened to be online when I was exploring the service so I haven't used the Hangout feature.  From the press coverage it looks cool.  Also I'm not entirely clear what Sparks is for so I haven't tried that yet either.

Other than the multiple Google account issue with logging in, the barrier to using Google+ more regularly would be the network effects of Facebook.  I have hundreds of connections on Facebook, most of whom are not on Google+.  Google+ did offer to import my contacts from my Google address book.  That's not useful in my case because while I do keep my Google address book updated and synced with my iPhone, that is my address book on the account which I can't use with Google+.  It would be nice to have a way to import my Facebook and LinkedIn connections.

Despite the network effects of Facebook I'd be inclined to use both in parallel to get a better sense of which really best suits my needs.  If only they will fix the Google Apps for Domains account issue.