I’ve been on Google+ for almost a week now and I’ve spent a fair amount of time on it playing around. Overall I’m impressed with the interface but I’m not sold on likely widespread adoption of Google+ by the masses anytime soon. Here are some of the major problems:
Circles. First of all, I personally think circles are great. I love the concept of selective sharing while allowing people to add anyone without the need for confirmation. It’s like the perfect merge of facebook and twitter. One problem: it’s complicated. People are not good at figuring things like this out. I just read an article today that 34% of iPhone users think they already have a 4G phone. And Google thinks that mainstream users are going to understand a system involving asymmetrical follow and selective sharing? C’mon. They have a huge hurdle to overcome to get people to understand Circles.
Public posts and comments. Right now I’m mainly seeing posts marked as “Public” in my stream. And a lot of them are from people who are in a lot of peoples’ circles so the posts get a ton of comments. Unlike twitter, those comments are shown in the stream (although only like three comments or so). The conversation is poorly organized without a proper threading system. Without quoting (which I think would be a mistake) or threading, following conversation in a huge number of comments is futile at best. What’s even worse about the Google+ comment system is that you can’t collapse the comments once you expand them without refreshing your stream. This is a really unusable system at the moment although I do think it can be fixed.
Sparks. I love the concept of Sparks. I’d love to be able to see the most-shared links for things that I’m interested in. Unfortunately the algorithm behind Sparks is currently quite weak. I added a spark for “Cycling” given that I’m a fan of pro cycling and the Tour de France is currently going on. What’s my top story in my cycling spark? Some random spammy press release article about Autumn Cycling Vacations. The second highest story is about how running beats out cycling as an exercise. The rest of the spark is somewhat better but it’s still pretty weak. There’s also no indication of how anything is being determined in the spark. Is it there because X number of other people posted it? Because someone in my circles posted it? Because some Google News-like algorithm thinks it’s good? Maybe I’m doing it wrong with the spark but there need to be huge strides on the spark-side for Google+ to be engaging.
Those are some of the major problems. There are probably dozens of problems I could list off with the Google+ interface but I’m sure that no one relevant at Google will ever read this post. And if they did I’m sure they don’t care what I think. But I think the Google+ interface has a long long way to go. They still don’t understand social anywhere near as well as Facebook (and to a certain degree Twitter… in my opinion Facebook crushes Twitter interface-wise). The good news for Google is that they can still improve and tweak the Google+ interface and eventually they’ll get really good adoption rates simply because of the Google toolbar and the network effects they can leverage with their existing traffic, Gmail and Android. Those network effects are going to be enormous for Google+ in the long run and it’ll give Google dozens of chances to turn occasional G+ users into regular G+ users. Eventually Google just might get it right.