Google has had a series of embarrassing flops when it comes to new products. Google Wave was too complicated and didn’t solve a problem anyone had. Google Buzz never caught on with enough people to become useful. Now, they’ve set their sights directly on Facebook with Google+ and after spending a little less than a day with it, I have to admit I am intrigued.
There are a couple of things that make Google+ compelling. The first is that despite the fact it’s still in limited beta, with many folks begging for invites from friends, it feels active and alive. When you log in, it appears like the early days of Facebook, before they piled on app after app and feature after feature.
Being the new thing is an advantage, because you can focus on the features that people really want. Google+ focuses on a feed of updates, similar to the Facebook Wall, and forces people to place their contacts into “Circles” which is similar to Facebook’s “Groups” that seems to be utilized only by a small audience.
Circles allow you to focus on the things a subset of your contacts are interested in, helping to separate the signal from the noise. This is the biggest problem with not only Facebook but with Twitter as well. Power users on Twitter use “Lists” and this makes the experience of Twitter much better, especially for people who depend on Twitter for information and news.
For those who use social media to consume news, there’s a Google+ feature called “Sparks” that allows you to track Google News sources for any keyword you want and the stream can be accessed within the same space you’re following friend updates.