Ok, this is really cool. It is probably worth selling part of my digital soul for this sort of awesomeness. Already the auto-awesome photo effects are really enriching my experience. Can’t wait to see the video equivalents.
I just watched a video of Amit Singh’s presentation at Atmosphere London 2013 and this slide was pretty interesting. It has some user stats for Google+ which are helpful in clarifying active “stream” users (presumably plus.google.com) and users considered to be Google+ users because Google+ is enabled in their Google accounts.
User the larger figure to measure Google+ users isn’t too problematic because of how pervasive Google+ is throughout Google’s services but I think the metric people often think of as a measure of Google+ user adoption tends to be more the stream itself as opposed to the broader view of Google+.
This takes me back to a post I wrote a little while ago about users and Google+ and how more people are probably Google+ users than you may think.
Forbes has an interesting article in which is raises the seemingly perennial question about Google+: why should “ordinary” users care about Google+? The point that no-one is using Google+ isn’t really a good one, however you measure Google+ users, there are a substantial number of people using the service. The challenge is more the composition of those users.
The Google+ social service at plus.google.com keeps getting better and while it is pretty clear that this is not going to be an interoperable social service linking in with Twitter, Facebook and whatever else comes along (the dream of a federated and social Web seems to have left for more distant shores), it is still has enough appeal to keep attracting interest, at least. That said, Facebook is still where our friends and family tend to be (my wife has no interest in Google+, my mother mostly comments on all the notifications she receives from the profile I set up for her a while back but doesn’t visit the service much). That sort level of interest is typical of most of my friends and family members who don’t see a reason to use something other than Facebook.
This is why Google+ has almost no value to me as a personal, friends-and-family social service but the way Google seems to be tying everything into Google+ may bring more and more people into the circle as time goes on, without them really intending to become plus.google.com users in the first place.
The first clue is the new Hangouts app which is Google’s new unified communications app. It runs on iOS (very nice app that looks great on my iPhone and iPad), Android and in Chrome. It also seems to work just fine on plus.google.com in Safari and, possibly, Firefox (I haven’t tried the yet). Hangouts has replaced Google Talk, Google+ Messenger (yes, didn’t really use that either) and Hangouts (v1). The catch is that you have to have a Google+ profile to use Hangouts. This, alone, could push Google Talk users to activate their Google+ profiles if they haven’t done so already.
The next clue is how other services like the Android development tools use Circles to distribute beta or limited release software builds and how the new Maps will use Circles to enable users to filter, say, nearby restaurant options much like Foursquare users can filter nearby spots based on where their friends have checked in.
The point is that although a lot of the attention on Google+ has focused on plus.google.com and its potential for a Facebook and/or Twitter alternative, it is increasingly the connective tissue between Google’s products and services as well as the fabric from which many of those products and services are created. I can see a time coming when your choice is to use Google services (powered by your Google+ profile and identity) or to use something else. That time probably isn’t all that far away either.
In many respects, Google is becoming a lot like Facebook with a distributed walled estate and that is a tragedy. This is the trend on the social Web and the determining factors for which services you use may include which services (email, calendaring, collaboration, chat, photo sharing and so on) you want to use and your social experience could depend increasingly on those choices.
This is a follow up to my last Google+ post, in a way. I had some time and was already experimenting with a microphone attached to my camera this morning so I recorded a couple thoughts about Google+. If you are not interested in Google+, this probably won’t interest you all that much. If you are already a Google+ fan, you know this stuff already. If you are interested in Google+ but aren’t all that convinced about it’s utility for you, this might be helpful.
If you ignore, for a moment that this is Google, consider the possible value of the circles in Google+ and your ability to share very selectively and in a way that allows you to maintain a distinction between your various roles in your life while using the same platform for it all. I came across this old Epipheo video (I mistakenly referred to it as a Common Craft video in my video monologue) titled “What is Google+ and do I need it?” which does a great job of explaining why Google+ is worth considering (unless you’re not or are already neck deep):
It turns out I am not the only person in South Africa using Google+ (well, it’s not news to me, I use Google+) and, today, Google released some useful numbers about it’s service, which turns 1 tomorrow. Vic Gundotra, Senior Vice-President of Social Business for Google, announced these numbers at Google I/O which kicked off today:
- 250 million Google+ users worldwide;
- 150 million of these users sign on once or more each month;
- 75 million Google+ users sign in daily;
- On average, Google+ users spend about 12 minutes in Google+ (presumably per visit).
Twitter (which I think is a more appropriate competitor for Google+ than Facebook given how I see people using Google+) has the following numbers on it’s site:
These are the most recent Twitter figures I could find and seem to date back to March 2012. Twitter is over six years old.
I know I sound like an mp3 on repeat (sorry, a fair number of people reading this might not get record player references) but these are not small numbers for a service which is being described as a ghost town. Twitter fans will talk about the simplicity of the 140 character tweet but Twitter really hasn’t been that simple 140 character service for quite some time now. Twitter resembles a stripped down Google+ hanging on to it’s simpler origins by it’s fingernails. If it does all you want from this sort of service then that’s fine. I still use Twitter a fair amount too (ok, that sounded a bit like “some of my best friends use Twitter”) and it is where a substantial number of people in my community are. That means it is a space I still frequent but that is the only reason I am still active on Twitter.
When it comes to meaningful engagement, Google+ is streaks ahead. 140 character text posts were the next best thing since TCP/IP a couple years ago but with smart devices able to handle more than just text, richer ways to share stuff and interact are far more useful. Announcements like Google+ Events immediately make Google+ a better option for events (well, for the most part) and the new tablet apps must do good things for user engagement (the iPad app has apparently been submitted to the iStore and I can’t wait!).
No, you don’t have to use Google+ and if it satisfies your needs then don’t feel like you have to explore another social service. Just the same, try restrain yourself from complaining about it without actually using it for more than 5 minutes. Google messed up with Buzz but this is far from Buzz, this actually seems to be working pretty well and the indications are that Google+ may actually continuing growing and evolving, despite me being a big fan (again).
If you are a little curious about this exciting little ghost town, circle me/follow me/get in touch:
I realised that one of the reasons I am a little apprehensive about getting too excited about Google+ is that I have a history of getting excited about services and how much better they are at certain things than, say, Twitter only to find the services are bought out, fade away or just die. Illustrations of my point:
- Jaiku is not better than Twitter, I just prefer it;
- Why You’re Wrong About FriendFeed;
- You Should Be Spending More Time on Google Buzz;
- A Few Thoughts About Google+.
I am basically the anti-trend spotter so if I decide and publicly declare that Google+ is the best thing ever (since the last best thing) and way better than Twitter (I may have done this already, come to think of it) then that could spell the end of Google+ as a viable service.
You’ve probably started seeing tweets and posts about the new Google+ design. It’s live on my profile and this is what it looks like for me:
The new Google+ design feels a little claustrophobic. The top and left bars seem to make the middle panel that much smaller. I also can’t help but notice the similarities with my Facebook Timeline. The main banner image is a little narrow on Google+, though.
Here is the promo video. I like the direction and probably need to spend more time with it getting used to it all.
This is the one major blind spot Facebook has – search. This move is a really interesting way to come at social relevance from the other direction and I think its going to be an exciting change.
Now all Google+ needs is Facebook’s user base to make all that personal search truly useful.
Update: Kathryn McConnachie from ITWeb interviewed me this morning about this and Twitter’s complaints about this development. You can also read Mike Sharman’s comments in the article so head over there for an interesting read.
— Kathryn McConnachie (@KathMcConnachie) January 11, 2012