I woke yesterday to a pleasant surprise, an invite to Google+. It came from someone in the same group that helped me get into Google Wave. I jumped on the bandwagon again!
According to other Twitterers, there is no limit to invites like with Wave, so anyone I added to a circle should get an invite. I went ahead and added some people who were suggested because I had emailed them from gmail at some time. The first person who asked me for one didn’t get an invite, so I told her to wait, that maybe they were sent out in batches when Google was ready. We’ll see.
Google+ looks much like Facebook in how it works. There are friends and there is the Stream — that’s like Facebook’s News Feed. So far, the main differences (besides that hardly anyone is on G+ yet) is the Circles and the Hangout. Circles are exactly like friend lists in Facebook, but instead of shunting them to the background, G+ puts them front and center, which I like. No more seeing someone in my news feed and wondering who they are because I added them for a game on Facebook and they’ve changed their name. Hopefully G+ will stay away from the game connections, but it’s hysterically easier to find what Circle someone is in — just hover over their name in the stream. There’s also a list of who’s in my Circles at the top right and I can hover there too.
The other big difference is the Hangout. On Twitter, Paul B. Allen mentioned that Hangout would be the killer app of G+. Once I investigated and traded a few tweets, I saw what he was saying. Hangout is video chat. I thought Skype could do that, but apparently it’s not free for group chats, which I didn’t know. I don’t usually use the video in Skype, but I can turn off video in Hangout too.
So, I’ve added some people to my Circles and hopefully some will sign up so I can see what this can do, and if it’s different than Facebook. Part of the trouble with Wave was that we didn’t have invites and the whole purpose was to collaborate. Google seems to have learned it’s lesson. G+ is social networking, and it takes being able to invite people you know to network with them.
Another problem I pretty much expected was getting Google+ on my Android. Google Market says a lot of things are “incompatible” just because it doesn’t like the gTablet. I was able to find the APK (installation) file and side load it. It seems to work. It doesn’t come with Hangout, but it has Huddle, which is not on the web site. Huddle is group chat. I need some people on G+ to actually try it. So much for being incompatible; when will Google learn to stop trying to lock out compatible devices to their market?
There is no hover in Android, so finding someone’s Circle requires clicking (well, touching), but then it’s right there for me to see. Also, looking at the list of who’s in my Circles shows their email address, where the web site requires a hover.
Another bonus of G+ over Wave is Gmail integration. I posted something to my Stream and got responses — they showed up in a Gmail thread. That could get redundant, but it can be shut off in settings.
Update: I also like how Photos are easy to get to. Every time I try to post pictures on Facebook, or especially to add to an existing album, it’s buried deeper and deeper. G+ appears easier to find them. But the way it uploads multiple photos at a time, if the first photo isn’t the quickest, then they end up out of order and I can’t see how to change the order. Although, with the G+ upload, I can add comments once the photo is uploaded and while the rest are still going.
What I don’t see in G+ is a list of who’s online. The chat in G+ appears to just do regular Gtalk chat and it showed my usual list of suspects, but the Gmail tab shows some online where the G+ tab doesn’t. (Update: They are both showing the same list of people online now; must’ve caught a glitch earlier.) But for the Hangout or the Huddle, it would help to know who’s online to chat with them.
Do we really need another social network? Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Google Buzz (it’s still around), MySpace, Friendster, Hi5, Bebo, Ning (including GenealogyWise), etc. I never signed up to some of those, or barely used them if I signed up. Will video chat really make G+ stand out? Or the group chat? Or is there something else in there that people will prefer over the others?
And whatever happened to Diaspora? Didn’t a lot of people donate money so a few college students could program that last summer?