Over the weekend, I dug into Google+ a bit. I wanted to share a few notes about the experience with my coworkers and the world.
Google has done a great job on performance from what I can tell. They've followed their own recommendations on optimization by doing things like implementing CSS sprites, caching static assets, and gzipping content. I can't do performance tests on my authenticated account at WebPageTest.org, but the perceived performance is great.
Parts of the user interface look similar to Facebook. But Google deviated from their norm of utilitarian/pragmatic design according to this article, and I appreciate their focus on aesthetics here. This combined with the speed makes for a delightful user experience.
Google offers limited sharing functionality with what they call "Circles", similar to Facebook groups. In my case, I have the following circles:
- End Point
- Web People (professional contacts)
Circles are integrated into every part of Google+, which makes it easy to limit posts, photos, videos or other content to individuals or circles. In addition to limiting sharing permissions, you can also limit viewing "Stream" (akin to Facebook's News Feed) activity to circles; for example, I might only be interested in looking at my "Friends" stream on the weekend, while I might be more inclined to look at my "End Point" stream during the week when I'm in work mode :)
Conference Calling or "Hangouts"
Yesterday, I tried Google Hangouts with a friend from my Windows laptop. I was required to install software on my laptop to run the chat app. Hangouts are similar to Skype video conferencing but are currently limited to 10 people. The quality of the conference call was comparable to Skype and this feature is an obvious competitor to Skype. Skype has always been a bit finicky on Ubuntu, so hangouts will be a clear replacement for me here if it runs smoothly on my Ubuntu laptop(s). I expect the conference calling feature set to grow over time — it'll be interesting to see what comes out.
Jon mentioned that the Android app for Google+ is nice. I haven't examined Sparks much, but it is similar to sharing in Facebook. I also just read that the iPhone app for Google+ is on it's way (from a Google+ contact). Finally, I'd consider shifting my photo backups from Flickr to Picasa if future Picasa updates justify the switch, which would allow me to easily share and tag photos, as well as back-up those 2-3 MB photos!
I'm impressed with the speed and usability of Google+. I'm interested to see the upcoming features and equally as interested to see how much cross-posting is going to happen between Google+ and Facebook, brought up by Dave Jenkins, who has also written about Google+ after he received an early invite.