Google+ first impressions: My big three takeaways

I’ve been testing out Google+ for the past couple of days. I admit that I had my doubts after Google’s prior failures with Buzz, Wave, and Lively. With Google+, though, I’m pleasantly surprised that I can see myself using it in the future. It will be interesting to see how it complements or replaces my other social networking activities. Here are my big three takeaways on Google+.

Circles. I believe Circles allows for the complexities of real-world relationships to be organized in a better way than what’s currently available in social networking. It’s a convenience that I can see many people come to appreciate as they use Google+. I have some friends who are like George from Seinfeld – they don’t like their worlds colliding. They don’t like it that all their friends are gathered on Facebook without any controls and can share in mutual roasting and mocking or even mutual congratulations of their life activities.

I’m probably on the other end of the spectrum. I want my friends to meet online, and eventually offline. I want my worlds to collide. I share everything from pictures to news clips to random thoughts. I haven’t gone completely open – I separate many of my professional contacts from my Facebook world and keep them on Linkedin.

But I realized that for many people, especially those outside of Silicon Valley, Facebook was their first and only social networking experience. These people either simply accepted all their worlds colliding, or limited their Facebook “friends” to real friends. Circles allows someone like me to group casual business acquaintances into a distinct circle where I don’t have to share personal details like family photos. It also allows for those previously uncomfortable with Facebook to potentially “let loose”.

Lastly, Circles allows for social graphs that weren’t previously available. For example, with online games you sometimes just want a person to be a gaming buddy on Facebook, but not for anything else. So what do you do? You bite the bullet or you just don’t friend them, neither of which is an ideal choice. Circles can create a social gaming graph for such situations, not just one circle but as many as you need. Millionaire City friends? Sure. Petville friends? Awesome.

Hangout. Multi-user video chat and video sharing has been done by standalone startups, but the convenience if including it within a social network is potentially sticky. What’s cool with Hangout is that you can select and share Youtube videos with each other. Social discovery real-time can be a time suck for some people. It will be interesting to see what’s integrated beyond watching Youtube videos with friends and family. I’m especially interested in gaming, which I can see becoming a huge driver for hanging out on Google+. Playing online poker with friends or Tetris Battle on Hangout? Killer. Multi-player Angry Birds? Uh-oh. Google Apps? Web store integration? Lots of potential here.

Buzz. For me, it seems forced into Google+ profiles. If it doesn’t have a life of it’s own, I would suggest just letting it die. Also, it would be ideal if that Buzz column on my profile page were removed and replaced by a Twitter column. Maybe Google should just buy Twitter now. While I believe Twitter is here to stay, I’m not sure that it’s a standalone company that can deliver long-term revenues. Twitter would be a nice fit into the Google universe, but I disgress.

Those are my initial thoughts from using Google+. What are yours?

Bernard Moon is co-founder & CEO of XS Groupe, an online private sale startup. He blogs at Silicon Moon. (Disclosure: Moon’s wife works at Google on the Android team.)

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