I have to hand it to the people at Google. They managed to create a lot of buzz about their latest project, getting millions of people to start using it in less than a month. Unfortunately for Google, my first reaction to Google+ is, “So what?”
It’s not that Google+ is a bad product. It’s more that it’s a product that does not yet have a need. It’s a superficial clone of all the other social media experiments going on out there that doesn’t add a whole lot new to what people are already doing.
That’s not to say it couldn’t. Google has the potential to weave together its impressive array of products using Google+ in a way that could revolutionize the way people use computers and the internet. But, so far that hasn’t happened. Instead, Google+ is a sophisticated chat board.
So, what would I like to see in Google+ that would get me excited? Here are a few things:
- I already use a battery of different services to maintain an online presence. Having to migrate all of that information to Google+ by hand is the single biggest detriment to me using it. If Google wants its product to be amazing, figure out a way to let me import information from places like Facebook and LinkedIn so I don’t have to reproduce it.
- Create a way to support groups. Facebook may have botched the attempt, but it had a good idea in introducing the concept.
- Tie Blogger, Google Docs, Sites, and other Google based web presence applications into Google+. For me, my Facebook pages, especially for my businesses, are valuable enough to deal with the annoyance of the rest of Google.
- Figure out a way to tell me my streams have updated in some sort of unobtrusive way.
I think the biggest thing Google could do is develop Google+ with business applications in mind. Make Google+ a clearinghouse for small businesses trying to get the word out about who they are and what they do, and I think people would join in droves.
I like a lot of things about Google, especially the company’s constant attempts to push the envelope and change how we think about using computers and the web. Unfortunately, I also dislike Google for some of the same reasons because the company’s attempts to push that envelope are single minded and, sometimes, ill-conceived.
From my point of view, the problem Google has as a company is that its heart and soul lives in Silicon Valley, where internet access is cheap and ubiquitous and where everyone is writing code for the next big web sensation. I think that the company doesn’t understand that more than half the population of the United States does not live in Silicon Valley, or even a major city, and that the solutions they preconceive will not necessarily work in, say, rural Ohio.
For example, I would love to be able to use Google Documents as a regular part of the tools I use to create, write, document, and explore. My problem is that Google Docs is only online, in the cloud, and decidedly under Google’s control. I don’t have ubiquitous web access where I live, so having documents locally resident is a must. Further, I need to know that, if something terrible happens out there on the web, I still have control of what I have created.
What Google needs to understand, then, is that there are users who would use their products if Google solved the problem in a different way. I would use Google Docs a lot more than I do if it had a locally resident interface with locally stored files that I could easily manipulate offline whenever I needed to then synchronize with the cloud when I decide to.
Google already has a version of this same technology built into its Chrome browser in the form of its bookmarks synchronization tool. All I am looking for is something that takes the same idea one step further and applies it to the rest of Google’s tools.
Until then, Google Docs, and really the rest of Google’s impressive array of tools, will continue to be a nifty form of file replication with editing capabilities for me, and I suspect, a lot of other people.