Yesterday Google unveiled its super-stealth social project, Google+, to a variety of reactions – from amazing to embarrassing. On the aforementioned spectrum, my reaction probably falls somewhere closer to embarrassing, but the best word to describe how I feel is underwhelmed. There is nothing in Google+ that blew me away. Each of the features seems like a slight derivative or virtual clone of something that is already out there.
Circles prides itself on being a more efficient way of sharing things, but sharing with different groups of people is why I use Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. I like how I have 3 distinct places to go to for 3 very distinct groups of people with whom I interact. Sure, some people overlap between the 3, but I’d rather not have to manually create these groups using Circle, especially when I’ve already done it (i.e. switching cost). Sparks reminds me of Twitter lists – I can already create a list of people that tweet about a particular interest I have. Hangouts is Skype group chat. Huddles is GroupMe. The whole site, in its current state, feels like a “nice to have” but not a “must have.” It is certainly not a Facebook or Twitter killer. It is hardly a complement right now. And, despite what some people have suggested on Twitter, I certainly don’t think that these services will ever replace enterprise social networks or WebEx (or Go To Meeting). Gmail hasn’t replaced Outlook (or Lotus if you’re stuck using that still), so why would companies switch to Google+?
The way Google went about selecting features seems like they took all the social features that Facebook hadn’t done yet. For a while now, I’ve bemoaned to friends that nothing about Facebook is original: the basic idea is MySpace, pictures is Flickr (or another photo sharing site), video is YouTube, status is Twitter, Places is Foursquare, Deals is Groupon (or another daily deals site), chat is IM, the list goes on. I give Zuckerberg 2 pieces of credit: seamlessly integrating all these ideas fromother people and not selling. This seems to be exactly what Vic Gundotra is doing with Google+ – let’s take a bunch of features that other social sites are doing and mash them together into one service. It’s as if they said to themselves, “Well it worked for Zuck with Facebook, so it should work for us too!”
However, perhaps the biggest thing working against Google+ right now is that it’s Google. Google used to be synonymous with creativity, innovation, and things that were just plain awesome. But when you hear Google and social in the same sentence, you think of words like Buzz and Wave. There is a stigma attached to Google+ already, and people who try the service will be doing so with a heaping pile of salt. They decided to call the service Google+, but for now, in my mind, it’s Google-.