How Google+ Could Win Me

September 11, 2012 10:34 PM

I have 178 people in my Google+ circles, most of them co-workers, techies and early adopters. Four of them have posted something in the last day. I have 203 Facebook friends, a mixture of co-workers, techies, family and friends. Six of them have posted something in the last hour. Obviously, at least amongst my circles, something isn’t working out.

On the other hand, I’m seeing a slowly growing use of Hangouts, Google+’s teleconferencing feature, which at least in my office is beginning to supplant Skype.

Long a “how cool is THAT?” staple of science fiction and 1980s future technology TV shows, the "video phone" is one of those places where the future happened, and when it did we barely blinked.

It was one of those office Hangout sessions that prompted me to install the Google+ iPad app. I don't know quite what I was expecting, probably something very Google and utilitarian and “we spent all our time on the Android version”. What I didn't expect was for it to be slick, responsive, and pretty damn gorgeous, right down to the way new entries sweep into place as you swipe into the past.

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And yet I'm still not going to use Google+ any time soon. As beautiful as the app was, a first impression that inspired me to blog about it, I’m unlikely to launch it very often. Social networks live or die on the content being published to them keeping people interested.

On the other hand, there’s Path. It’s another gorgeous-looking app (this time on my phone) that posts to a social networking service. It has a built in photo app with sub-Instagram quality filters. It has a neat hook in to a song recognition service. It can be pretty slow on my iPhone 4 and it used to crash all the time. I don’t care in the slightest about their built-in social network, but still I launch this application regularly and post to Path.

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Because it also lets me cross-post my thoughts, pictures, and location check-ins to Facebook and Twitter.

Path has a Foursquare button as well, and it is just as easy to select that option as it is not to. Now, after months of mostly ignoring the stand-alone Foursquare app, I’m mayor of my apartment building.

While there are third-party solutions for cross-posting G+ content to Twitter and Facebook, they’re generally quirky, unreliable Rube Goldberg-style contraptions that lose important things like photos along the way. Which is a pity, because Google+ could have me posting to their service in an instant if there was a G+ button in Path. And from what I've seen of the new G+ mobile apps, Google+ could have me ditch Path in an instant if there were Twitter and Facebook buttons in the G+ app.

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Google has its ongoing fights with both Twitter and Facebook, but I can't see either being able to dig up reasonable grounds to object to Google allowing people to throw more stuff into their walled gardens using published APIs. And from Google’s point of view, people are already sharing things using Facebook and Twitter, so who cares if it means they are also seeding Google+ with valuable content?

edit: The above paragraph previously assumed that YouTube and Reader also lack functions to crosspost to Facebook/Twitter. It turned out they both do, although both are a little bumpy (Reader requires you to share with each site separately, for example, and while I can make the YouTube Like button crosspost the video automatically to Facebook and Twitter… Google+ is still a separate button!)

When Google came out with their search engine, they famously didn’t care about making the site “sticky”. That worked pretty well for them.

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