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What did Google+ get right? (write.as)
112 points by eitland 25 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 146 comments



I was an early proponent of G+ when it first opened. I loved the idea of Circles and their implementation of Groups was really good. I didn't love the UI, which I found bland, but the functionality was well thought out. For a while I used it as my primary social media site but Facebook was entrenched even back then and nobody I knew used G+.

I don't really understand Google's strategy. They got rich by providing useful features for the web at large - walled sites like Facebook should be considered the enemy, not something to emulate. If I was Google I would be providing easy to use blogging site, blog readers and a loose social network that encouraged links to other sites (perhaps similar to HN on a larger scale) that would be easy for third-parties to integrate.

Instead they killed Google Reader and made G+ and youtube just as much as a walled garden as Facebook.


I was fairly close to some of the people at Google involved in this.

This narrative misses a lot. The most important part was the purchase of FriendFeed by Facebook and the failure of Google Buzz (the more open predecessor to Plus).

The narrative I've heard is more like this (It goes back over 10 years, so the context is much different. Google was much smaller, and there were many doubters about Facebook).

Facebook was founded in 2004

By 2007 it was clear that social networks were a thing, but there was a very strong feeling among technologists that they should be more open.

During 2007 a bunch of pretty well credentialed Googlers left to start a more open social network called FriendFeed. This aggregated open sources of content from all over the web.

This worked fairly well technically, and people at Google were generally supportive of it (there were many Googlers on the service, and they were actively working on things like PubSubHub[1] to make open aggregation services work well.

However by 2009 it was clear it FriendFeed had product issues. It was being used just as a republishing tool (primarily from Twitter) and they ended up selling to Facebook.

This upset a number of people at Google, who were relying on it to create an open alternative. These people were involved in the creation of the (mostly forgotten) Google Buzz[2], which was basically a clone of FriendFeed.

Buzz failed as a consumer product, so then Google attempted the pivot to Google Plus.

[1] https://github.com/pubsubhubbub/PubSubHubbub

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Buzz


> It was being used just as a republishing tool

So, like Google Plus. Except that an "open" publishing tool is at least more useful than an entirely proprietary one! Let's face it, Google dropped the ball here.


No.

Google Plus never had an API for incoming content.

Buzz allowed one-click connection to Twitter. Great idea, but people would use it to publish straight from Twitter, and wouldn't engage on the Buzz platform.

This was a terrible experience - you'd miss the conversational aspect of Twitter, and be ignored if you tried to have conversations on Buzz.

Google dropped the ball here.

Maybe, but it isn't clear to me what they should have done differently.


> you'd miss the conversational aspect of Twitter, and be ignored if you tried to have conversations on Buzz.

This comes with the territory of having a fledging social network - it's not "terrible" if it's good enough for users. You grow from there by encouraging some niche communities to congregate using your system, that's how true "engagement" can start. Even Facebook itself grew from a very small community, namely students at a particular college, then college students more generally.


Yes, and indeed they tried this (especially on Plus, around photography).

The problem was that the product was working as designed - it was the importing of external feed that was both the key feature and the problem.

It might have worked if two-way-comment feeds were a thing. But there is no reason why Twitter would want to implement that.


>> "Buzz allowed one-click connection to Twitter. Great idea, but people would use it to publish straight from Twitter, and wouldn't engage on the Buzz platform."

This almost became a problem on Mastodon with Twitter crossposters. Enough people pushed back hard to keep them from taking over timelines. People still use them, but they generally engage on both sides now.


Buzz had some horrible privacy problems and was too smart for its own good if I remember correctly.


The Buzz privacy problem were almost exclusively at launch, the way they seeded the network.

Not sure what "too smart for its own good" means exactly. It was a pretty vanilla feed, with no fancy features.


> Not sure what "too smart for its own good" means exactly. It was a pretty vanilla feed, with no fancy features.

It was a reference to how they seeded the network by inferring contacts.


Pretty sure some googlers can chime in or someone will dig a post from that time but I seem to recall the inability for Google to crawl facebook private profiles, where juicy profiling bits live, was one of the incentives for google to get into the game. And the fact that someone at Google freaked out over the sn revolution but don't quote me on that.

I am pretty sure I read the demise of google reader was because it's hard to make money off of RSS/Atom and harder to bolt adtech on top of it.

Google had wave, blogger, orkut and other things. It's not like they didn't test different things or try to emulate others. They just failed edit: they failed with g+ I mean

I am more amazed at how microsoft had the messenger brand and how it's now facebook's. It's mind boggling. And ms had a blogging strategy at some point.


Yep, I recall that the FB like buttons proliferating the web was perceived as a huge threat (and drove the +1 buttons.)

> Google had wave, blogger, orkut and other things. It's not like they didn't test different things or try to emulate others. They just failed.

Wave failed, but was a fantastic experiment, and the learnings went into Google Docs/Sheets for collaborative editing.

Blogger and Orkut didn't fail. They were hugely successful -- Blogger worldwide, and Orkut primarily in Brazil (and India, I think.) Both had great rides, and withered away as everything does.


IMO the more entertaining learnings from Wave went into Hangouts Chat, because the embedding Docs/Sheets and other rich content into your threaded conversations just gives me Wave flashbacks every time I see a new one.

I liked Wave, even if nobody knew what the actual use cases for it were.


According to someone that worked on Blogger, a decade ago one of the top three or five sites in all of Greece was this blog, Troktiko, which tragically went into hibernation when the cofounder, a journalist, was murdered.


> If I was Google I would be providing ... a loose social network that encouraged links to other sites (perhaps similar to HN on a larger scale) that would be easy for third-parties to integrate.

They did. It was called OpenSocial, which originally released in late 2007, and was implemented by MySpace and others to compete against the Facebook platform (also released in 2007). I remember when I first looked at its complex XML documentation, that it was much easier just to use the Facebook API.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenSocial


OpenSocial was a standard for "widget" which could be hosted on a site. I don't think it was ever used on Plus, but it was available on iGoogle.

That was more for games than for the type of links the OP was talking about though.

OTOH Google did a lot of work around things like PubSubHubbub to get cross site links working.


OpenSocial was great in theory, but in practice it was awful. At launch, it had a fraction of the features of the FB platform, was much more complicated to build for, and its behavior was not actually consistent across all the social networks that implemented it. I joined a startup that was building for both FB and OpenSocial and as soon as we had a successful Facebook game we ditched all thirty-something OpenSocial widgets.


> If I was Google I would be providing easy to use blogging site, blog readers and a loose social network that encouraged links to other sites

Back in the heyday of blogging, there were people working on building exactly this. See for instance FOAF:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FOAF_(ontology)

Of course, then along came the walled gardens and that was the end of that. (Sigh.)


I totally agree about the bland UI - when Google+ first became a thing, I tried to get into it, but bejesus it was just so bland and uninspiring. I found it difficult to discover functionality, and honestly it just completely lost my interest.


> If I was Google I would be providing easy to use blogging site, blog readers and a loose social network that encouraged links to other sites (perhaps similar to HN on a larger scale) that would be easy for third-parties to integrate.

So, Blogger? Feels kind of abandoned as a product, though.


Sort of abandoned but still works well enough.


Hasn't worked well enough IMO since the day they started changing the domain name of my blog depending on where it was accessed from.

At some point it became too ugly and too hard.


I've thought about switching to wordpress but I mostly publish on other sites these days and blogger still basically works for me and it's free.


Circles

Peoples relationships and interests tend to be grouped by their circles. Whatsapp and Facebook groups seem to understand this which is why they are soo sticky.


I think Circles was a great example of what Google+ got wrong. If you are an alien species observing human interaction, you'll notice that it really is how people interact, they have different circles of friends or contacts that they might want to share things with, and a "circles" feature is a great way to organize your social network.

What google missed was that nobody wants to sit down and explicitly categorize all their friends into circles. Our social circles are not hard-edged and fixed, they're fuzzy and context-dependent.


In my opinion, circles got it wrong because it got the arrow of direction wrong.

Look at Instagram. Many people have multiple accounts, which is a feature built into Instagram itself. It's easy to switch accounts. An individual might have one account (possibly private) for their personal feed meant for friends and family, another account for their instafluencer persona who travels the word taking selfies, and perhaps they have another one for their instafluencer merch shop or whatever.

For everyone using IG, these appear as distinct profiles. The consumer chooses which one to follow. Google Plus gave you one profile, and then made it so that you, the producer of content, chose which followers to target.

Obviously, the technical difference is very slim; for the "producer" there's less difference. And the circle feature isn't without merit. But Google didn't realize that just routing stuff to different places isn't what people want.

Putting a filter (which is what the circles feature could be seen as) on your own stuff is actually the last thing most people want. That's as exciting as doing laundry.


> What google missed was that nobody wants to sit down and explicitly categorize all their friends into circles.

I actually found an weird satisfaction from doing this. It was beneficial for about a month until everyone I knew decided G+ was a ghost town.

I've been checking on how to simplify, gamify, or automation the categorization/labeling aspect for years. I think it would totally change the game on the flat news feed problem.


I agree, I think Circles was great. Between family and actual friends, most people have probably less than 100 contacts to manage. The rest could be lumped into Followers. Even for those, over time, machine learning models could suggest circles to put them in, or even assign them automatically with a manual override if you didn't like the placement. But the basic idea of Circles is sound, and the biggest thing wrong with Facebook (from a user perspective, anyway), is that it doesn't provide something comparable.


It might be beneficial, but it is way too high-friction for most people. The group-based messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Kakao, Discord have basically achieved this same concept of pre-defined audiences using a much more familiar and low-friction concept (rich group chat).


The obvious solution to me is an intelligent algorithm that decides which of the content in your feed you'll be most interested in and surfaces that for you. And this is exactly what facebook is trying to do. It's obviously a difficult problem though, and they make the wrong call a lot of the time.


A really key piece of information missing from that algorithm is your relationship with the people posting. Sure, an algorithm could infer that, but right now they're terrible at it. Why not just let people specify their relationship and how often they want to see content from someone? Facebook's problem from a user perspective is that the ideal social network for users looks nothing like the ideal social network for maximum profitability, which is what they're trying to build. FB's only hope for the future is to use marketing to convince people that they actually want its brand of dystopia.


They make the wrong call because they aren't focused on surfacing content you're interested in, they're focused on surfacing content that gets a rise out of you.


Shit, back before G+ called this “circles”, we had “friends groups” on Livejournal, and I sure do remember my friends making a good number of posts that they notes were locked to one group or another. And these were not programmers for the most part, they were artists and writers and other non-technical types.

You’d decide to start following someone and you’d get a screen with checkboxes for all your friends groups, so you could add them to whichever ones you felt appropriate. It was super easy. Or do it later if your feelings on who you wanted to share particular things with changed.


Think of it less as categorizing your friends as tagging them.

Facebook is the zenith of "explicitly categorizing friends" into friend groups, and as you surmise it's a pretty bad way to go. That, and their group-visibility settings on posts is clunky enough to make me think it's designed so that people stop trying and just post everything to everybody.


I was so excited for the circles so I could group content to an audience. I coerced a significant number of people to join Google+.

I was let down when I found out that when I posted something, it would send people in that circle an e-mail notification.

I stopped posting as soon as I saw that. I'd much rather have people check on my interests at their leisure than having my content forced on them.


This. I have family, military friends and recruiters and I don't want those conversations crossing over. With facebook, I have no idea what will leak across various groups of friends.


I 100% agree, however I really didn't like manually curating those circles ... I share a relatively diverse set of things/interests, so would have loved to leave it up to the other party which facet of my "feed" they could have subscribed to.

This isn't my use case, but a perfect example is people with kids. They're gonna share pictures and stuff of their kids, but as I'm sure you've seen, tons of people make comments like, "I wish I could just filter out pictures of babies and dogs!".


Any system that requires manual curating of these things by the user is doomed to fail. I'm probably the demographic most prone to try features, so I'll try to make some circles, but I have to admit failure.

Even whatever you called it in livejournal where you had specific sharing groups of friends - that was a burden to maintain. I eventually lost track of my organization. It just wasn't worth it.


All the automated systems fail as well. I don't see any way the overlaps can be automated without some people either missing out, or other people getting a bit much.


The formality around making a discrete group of "Circles" was the problem. If they just let you have multiple feeds and you can add and remove people from those feeds it would have been fine. In those circumstances, the issue isn't you sitting there categorizing how close you are with each of your friends. You're just deciding who you want to share things with, it's not unlike a group chat you might have with a bunch of friends.


This is a fantastic point! Over time, the number of group chats in FB Messenger has grown, and it totally meets this usage.


I also remember reading about this thing the "kids" are doing these days where they just spin up a dummy private instagram account and give a bunch of friends the password. The instagram account winds up becoming a sort of ersatz web forum that they use to plan social outings and share pictures. Inviting new people is as easy as giving them an invite to follow. Granting write/mod access is as easy as giving them account username/pass. It's a pretty clever hack to turn Instagram into a micro-forum.

And it winds up being a better implementation of circles. The "circle" is object of interest. It's not a categorization that you put people in, it's an entity in its own right.


Couldn’t you have the same person in multiple circles?


Yes.


Actually to be honest, Circles wouldn't always preventing them from learning that they were both connected to you.

After messing up badly in the nymwars, forcibly joining together YouTube accounts with Gmail accounts they actually made a heavyweight but working solution:

It was given the name Pages which was more or less meaningless IMO (in this context).

What it felt like at the time however was a powerful solution for switching between pseudonyms connected to your account.

That said: Given a large reason for why Google+ is shutting down was that they had a couple of huge data leaks maybe we should all be glad kt wasn't too widely used :-]


If something is public (and often even if it isn't), it's public. I never viewed Circles so much about hiding information from other Circles. Rather, it was about acknowledging that my friends from school and other non-professional, well, circles mostly aren't interested in reading about my latest tech article. And at least some people who follow me professionally probably aren't interested in whether I think some movie is good or not.

I really tried to be on team Google+ for a while but it was too little too late.


> Given a large reason for why Google+ is shutting down was that they had a couple of huge data leaks maybe we should all be glad kt wasn't too widely used

That's the reason it's already planned shutdown was accelerated, but the leaks occurred after it was essentially abandoned to palliative care.

Had it been sufficiently used, and therefore actively maintained, they may not have occurred.


For me, this was the biggest fail of Facebook and the main reason why I stopped using it about a year ago. Conversations are meant to be had with a certain group of people, not a random number of unknown people in your list. We need more control and that's why I think G+ circles was a really good idea.


I'm honestly shocked they still haven't figured a way to make it easier to assure me I can post stuff without it leaking as you say. This was definitely cool about Google+.


Unfortunately, when last I looked, there was no way to add yourself to a particular circle of some other user -- so if you wanted, say, Jennifer 8 Lee's articles, but didn't want your feed cluttered up with her pictures of dishes from restaurants, you had to ask her to do something individually. For people with diverse interests and large follower counts, this really doesn't scale.


Yeah: this aspect--where the circles were essentially backwards--made the feature essentially useless. I post stuff about Android, and I post stuff about iOS, and I post stuff about abstract programming languages. Great! So I make three circles, and then... wait, users don't add themselves to my circles, they just follow my entire account and then I have to add people to the right circles somehow? ?!?


Circles are a great solution for social circles on a social network. I think most people who post like you describe would just use a mailing list, or a blog with multiple RSS feeds.


Agree. They later (?) introduced collections which solved this (and I've written about it in my post) but at that time I guess tve famage was done.


Good: Circles as a way to separate social groups

Bad: Forced to share a single "publicly linked identity" across all those groups. John Doe Public Accountant might not want people to know they also exist as John Doe Death Rocker, and vice-versa.


Yeah I think Google really screwed up when they forced YouTube into the G+ framework and started enforcing a sort of real ID with small exceptions (allowing single letter initials). I think the exceptions can after an uproar. The biggest challenge was people didn't see a reason to use it since the market was already saturated. Also they didn't provide any good tools for automating content creation which helped them avoid spam but also made it less than trivial for content creators to implement a G+ presence.


To be fair, even if they had the system I wanted -- one where I can have different identities in different circles -- I would still worry about Google somehow "leaking" data accidentally or for advertising profit.


I was thinking exactly this whilst unfollowing people on Twitter who weren't feeding my hopeless obsession with Brexit. Hashtags are too ephemeral and gamed.


I too was excited about the idea of circles for managing viability. It seemed really simple and intuitive for a problem most social media platforms botch.


Some of this could also be "What did LiveJournal (and therefore also its clones) get right?" Oddly LiveJournal seems to always get left out of these discussions, even though it had more features than many later sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc). There's good reason to avoid LiveJournal itself these days, but the clone sites still live (e.g. Dreamwidth).


Wasn't LJ just a blogging platform?

I used it in early 2000 and was blown away by what MySpace offered compared to LJ.


I mean, you had your friends page, which aggregated all the posts from people you'd added as friends (this was a one-way thing, it didn't require the other person's agreement). You could also make posts locked so that only your friends, or specific subsets, could see them. (Later it became possible to separate these two different functions of adding someone as a friend, although a little troublesome. On Dreamwidth these are entirely separate functions, with the "friends page" now called the "reading page"; you "subscribe" to people to add them there, and you "give access" to people to let them read your locked posts.) People can also set up "communities" that people can join and post to. And of course people had profiles where they could write a little bit about themselves, and you could see their friend lists (or these days on Dreamwidth, subscription lists and access lists).

Seems to me it basically resembles the later "social networking" sites in features (and outdoes them except possibly Google+), just the tone was more focused on long-form blogging.

I guess the one thing lacking that people these days would expect was that you couldn't easily upload pictures and such (that was a paid feature IIRC; haven't checked how that works on Dreamwidth). But if you ignore that...


If by blogging platform, you mean a place where people can post content, comments on each other's content, have friends lists, send messages, have public pr private posts, and have community pages with shared content authoring, then yes. But then, so is Facebook.


I scrolled through my long dead plus profile before I nuked it a few weeks ago. The main thing I noticed is that I posted a broad spectrum of things there from all the hobbies and interests in my life. When I moved to twitter my profile became almost two dimensional - mostly about two topics of interest and nothing in between. Lots of quips and no longform posts. Although I do like being able to curate my feed and my own posts down to a very limited set of topics, I also miss the way I could discover new things on Plus and, long before that, Stumbleupon. It was easier to break out of my echo chamber. I don't have a modern day tool to fill that role (would love to hear some options if anyone has suggestions)


The website felt slow and bloated performance-wise, despite the design being simple. YouTube feels like that now too.


What feels slow in YT for you? I've never noticed myself being bothered by it.


The top question you should ask is what browser you use. If you use Chrome, and the parent uses Firefox, that's why. (Not because Firefox is slow, but because Google uses a lot of Chrome-specific hacks.)


I use desktop Safari.

When I watch a video from the main youtube page, then hit the back button, the video keeps playing for several seconds while a javascript progress bar at the top of the screen loads to take me to the main page.

I hate it so. much. Usually I'm hitting the back button precisely because the video became annoying to me, or something else is happening where I don't want to hear it any more, and having to wait several seconds while the video still plays is awful.


And Google Cloud console. And Gsuite Admin. And Gmail. Well, maybe the latter isn't simple anymore


All that botnet takes time to execute.


They seem to have lost sight on a big part of what made them attractive to begin with.


It's funny because Google has this guy, I think he's called Alex Russel, running around and telling the world which websites are too slow and how to improve web performance.

Somehow the rest of Google seems to ignore him.


Sorry for that.

I host it with write.as, and I guess they might have some scaling problems or something. It is a just a small (but very cool IMO) startup.


Hey, I'm pretty sure the parent poster was referring to Google+, not the site you wrote on.


Thanks, good to know, but it still doesn't make sense to me :-)


"Google+ felt slow and bloated performance-wise, despite the design being simple" is what he means.

And yes I agree. Due to the sliding/fading animations and other nonsense, it felt slow and sluggish. By today's standards it would probably feel fast. But for the time, it was the slowest thing Google had created.


This got worse over time. It used to be quite zippy when it first launched.


Increasingly seems that what Google got right was getting the heck out of the social networking arms race before the 2016 election season.


They still have YouTube.


It's only now that I use Twitter on a daily basis that I realize the problem of having a single feed for your private life, work, hobbies, etc. It just doesn't work and is one of the main reasons why I unfollow people. I think the underlying functionality of circles and collections are a must but maybe they can be implemented in a better and easier to use way.


I think of the underlying problem as "the metadata delusion."

We programmers look at difficulties users have dealing with large volumes of data and think, aha! I can solve this by giving them ways to add metadata to those data, so it can be more easily browsed/filtered/faceted/whatever. (We think that because programmers have an analytical cast of mind, which we then extrapolate from -- this would be useful for me, we figure, therefore it would be useful for anyone.) So we build these elaborate systems for storing and managing metadata, and then build elaborate UIs to expose those systems to the user.

Our system goes out to the users, and as long as those users are people like us -- analytical types -- it works OK. But then it goes out beyond that to a general audience, and suddenly we discover a new problem: namely that most users don't want to add metadata and simply will not do it, even if by doing so they could realize huge productivity gains. It doesn't matter how useful the metadata would be to them, to them adding metadata is work, and worse, it's nerd work of a kind they feel fundamentally uncomfortable with and unequipped to deal with. So they just don't do it. And they won't do it, no matter how hard you try to sell them on it.

That was the problem with "circles" in G+: not that it was a bad idea to let people split up their feeds, but that having multiple feeds required them to add metadata (creating circles, naming them, adding people to them, periodically removing people from them, etc.), and people just didn't want to do that. So they didn't.

It's not impossible to build systems that categorize data to make it more comprehensible, but if you want them to work, they have to do so in some way that doesn't put the burden on the user to keep everything correctly tagged/categorized/faceted/whatever. Because they just will not do that, no matter how many carrots you dangle.


It seems to be working for Instragram, but they implemented the simplest possible thing for stories - you can have your "everyone" group, or your "close friends" group. No custom labels, no additional groups, just those two and thats it. I see quite a few friends who never even participated on G+ or similar making use of it.


Yeah, that's a good example: if you must have the user add metadata, keep it as simple as you possibly can. "You have exactly two buckets, everything goes in one or in the other" is about as simple a metadata system as you can get.


I really don't like to think that users are too stupid for good solutions.

I think it is a way to avoid admitting that we fail at ux innso many ways and in even more spectacular ways when we try to be smart and remove options.


My point wasn't that general users are stupid -- far from it! It's that they think about these things differently than programmers do, and so when we build solutions that are optimized for the way we think, we do them a disservice.

In other words, dividing the world into "smart people" (e.g. us) and "dumb people" (e.g. everybody who isn't us) isn't productive. Realizing that there are people out there who think about these things differently than we do, and taking the time to learn how they think and build solutions that respect that, can be.


> My point wasn't that general users are stupid -- far from it!

Thanks for clarifying. I guess we more or less agree somehow then.


Thank you; this explains why Google's photo thing keeps trying to create albums for me.

They're already attempting to optimize out the broken part of the working system. End users that just literally can't or can't be bothered.


talking from my heart. exactly this. all those g+ done right, are actually very geeky and IMO it actually scared people off using g+.


Is that not something many people do all the time with hashtags? Those are a form of metadata...


On a side note: Twitter is strange to me, as someone who visits it once every two or three weeks. After a while, I'm usually surprised by some tweets, because I started following someone because of their profession or hobby that lines up with mine, but then they post data about other activities. Why am I following someone who talks about food? Oh, right, for another completely unrelated reason. And I do not even follow so many people.


I have this happen as well, where I'll follow someone for a certain subject they post about, but then when they post about something else I'm confused as to why I'm following this person, until I look at their full feed and remember why. I doubt, even with the option that most people who separate their posts into "categories" or circles but it would be nice.


When Twitter first appeared my guess was they'd create a kind of messaging backbone for the Internet and start to add features like machine-to-machine, group communication etc.

Guess my disappointment.


I liked the idea of circles but G+ never really stuck for me.

One thing I think about is tagging. Arguably circles is a private configuration. If I tag someone in a picture I posted to my Family Facebook Circle, but who on their end would see it on the timeline?

I never used G+ enough to know how it handled that scenario.

My intuition wants to tell me it's tricky things like that which piled up in Facebook's mind when evaluating whether to copy them. They've copied many competitors and social media outlets especially if it fit easily.

Privacy features isn't one of their strengths.


I find the issue is with the actual authors. One post will be something helpful to my work and then the next will some politic rant. I want a social network where I only see the former post.


That's what Google+'s collections were for: https://support.google.com/plus/answer/6320409?hl=en&ref_top...


I find Mastodon's Content Warnings an interesting/useful model for mixing such content, and it's interesting the number of folks I follow that are falling into a "CW everything" philosophy for this sort of reason. The "Show More" to expand a subject/topic is an interesting "pull" mechanic, as contrasted to Circles' larger focus on "push".


> I find Mastodon's Content Warnings an interesting/useful model for mixing such content, ...

Same here.

I also hope circles and collections will come to the fediverse. Pixelfed already had circles as one of four options for what to focus on in coming iterations.


I don't mind CWs as much since they finally added a global "show all" setting you can set in your profile. There's definitely some nice uses beyond "trigger warnings", like keeping a long post from dominating your feed view, or as a spoiler tag for discussing movies.


Semi-related, my big hack in my instance's custom CSS was to substantially enlarge the Show More/Show Less buttons to make it a much easier target to tap/click, which makes it much easier to expand or recollapse a post.


This sounds handy. Out of curiosity, does Mastodon have any form of extension/plugin system yet, to allow you to manage these through upgrades and/or distribute them easily, or are you modifying the stylesheets directly?


So far I've been sticking to things I can do purely in CSS (I wanted to move the CW subject lines into the buttons, for instance, but couldn't find a way with the current markup). For that, the Administrator section of Mastodon does keep and store a custom CSS section that it will output as a <style> block on page renders. I've been sharing my CSS changes on my account as I make them, and other admins could just copy and paste them.

(Probably the most major other change was I fought the CSS to make the background 100% black for OLED power savings.)

I'm told there also is a deeper theming system and some shared themes as Ruby gems. I haven't explored that personally because I'm using a shared host and so far I've been happy with the simple custom CSS overrides.


An option that can achieve something like circles on Twitter is to not follow any accounts but instead assign them to Twitter's "lists". You can create lists for work, hobbies etc and view whichever one you're interested in at a given time.


I divide things up thusly:

Programming- or gaming-related: Twitter

"Fit for mass consumption": Facebook

Personal: Facebook (with privacy settings activated)


I've yet to write a definitive post mortem (still in the thick of the Google+ Exodus, see: https://old.reddit.com/r/plexodus/), but most treatments I've seen miss substantial points.

G+ was endlessly frustrating, and yet still compelling.

The features many list were not part of the site for much its life: it launched without Search, Communities, or Collections. It morphed several times, significantly: May 2012 and 2013, the November 2013 YouTube forced integration, and several generally lesser ones after the site was in clear decline.

The low-friction interaction with notifications, and search capabilities, along with all-but-unlimited-length text posts, were strengths. As was underlying platorm stability.

The user cohort, yes, small, but geeky and academic, was a strength. (The SEO marketing contingent not so much.)

Noise, poor filters and organisational capabilities, and unwanted and intrusive integrations were downsides. Overall management was abysmal, likely for numerous reasons.

And yet I'd found it useful, within limits.


The only thing I give to Google is its security. Search HN for just Google[0] and the threads are all things regarding the company's decisions/politics: shutting down products, abusing their Chrome monopoly, Google Play, etc. Meanwhile, you can search for Facebook [1] and all of the top stories are related to infosec/data breaches, actual crimes like the research VPN (although Google also did this, be it more transparently), etc.

I'm not saying Google is perfect, they did have the Google+ API leak. You can hate Google for their decisions all the same as being able to hate FB for their infosec (or, better yet, hate both of them for the ad targeting) but I'd rather have my data stored by Google instead of FB.

0: https://hn.algolia.com/?query=google

1: https://hn.algolia.com/?query=facebook


But where will I be able to read Linus words? That was my only use of Google+.


Since they killed Google Reader because of G+, my question is now that G+ is officially dead, can they bring back Google Reader?


I'm sure they won't bring something back based on one of many the rumors of why they closed it.


Reverse chronological list of all posts that I am interested in with no 'helpful' filtering/automated curation/suggested content.

Oh wait, I don't think Google+ had that..


A nice post about a really well built social community that got lost because most social media users crave Likes/attention. I can tell you that all your points are good points and I don’t have a BUT neither :) Facebook, insta and Whatsapp make it way too easy for people to use their platforms. Most people take the easiest root and all their friends are there too. For 5 years I’m trying to get people to stop using Whatsapp and step over to Signal. Everyone tells me, that they don’t know anyone on Signal. The same goes for G+ On G+ I had like 20,000 followers on just one type of collection of photos. The people followed it because they where interested in the subject.

Facebook connects people and people are nosy, they want attention and want to see what others are doing. G+ didn’t have that.


This article misses a couple of important strengths of Google+:

* The combination of Events and Hangouts was magical. This was great for planning open online meetups, games on hangouts, and tons of other things.

* Circle sharing. This really jump-started informal communities. Yes, they added more official communities later, but circle sharing was in my opinion a far more effective way to create real communities of people who get to know each other.

* Ultimately, of course, the most important part were the people themselves. It attracted a lot of interesting people. Geeks, early adopters, people with a passion for a wide variety of topics. People weren't using it to connect with families and friends they already know in the real world, they connected to new people with similar interests that didn't always fit a specific formal Community. Friendships were made, several businesses were launched based primarily on interaction on Google+.

I'm sad to see it go. I'm sadder still that Google mismanaged it into the ground. They had something great, but seemed determined to destroy it by forcing low quality content onto it, and removing popular features.


It was actually super strange that in all the years it was there, Google never bothered to put ads in Google+. Had they done so, I wonder if they would've considered the platform more viable long-term?


Do you mean that they canned Google+ because it was making no money?

Surely at any time they could add ads. They knew how many people were going there and how often. Therefore they then could make a good guess, from their other apps, at how much money it would make them if they were to add ads.

It must have been that after doing the math they thought it was not worth it. Or maybe they never meant it to make money directly, only to feed into their other products, which make money. Either way, they knew how many people were going there and how often, and decided it wasn't doing what they wanted it to do and that it could not make enough money even if they added in ads.


For quite a long while, Google+ was the third largest social network. It's hard to imagine it could not have made a significant amount of money on ads.

It's definitely true that initially Google intended G+ to feed into the overall Google thing, and that many integrations of combining disparate Google properties together was actually done under the banner of G+.

But I do wonder with Ruth Porat's more "must be profitable" approach to Google divisions, if they had added ads a couple years ago, if it might've been considered worth maintaining.


>Google+ was the third largest social network.

I suspect the metrics were heavily cooked at the time when this was reported. At some point it was really easily to accidentally end up on G+ just by using other Google products, and Youtube comments counted as G+ posts, which no doubt made for incredible activity numbers.


I guess we're still talking past each other.

> It's hard to imagine it could not have made a significant amount of money on ads.

Yes, I agree. And Google knew this better than either of us. Therefore no one at Google ever would have said, "We need to close down Google+ because it is not making enough money." It was making zero dollars, because they chose to give it no way make money, directly. There was no sign-up fee, and there was no advertising.

Your original comment that I was replying to:

> Had they done so, I wonder if they would've considered the platform more viable long-term?

They don't need to turn on ads to know if it is viable, because they can just turn on ads in their heads. "Google+ has this many users, who use it this often per day. Therefore, if we were to turn on advertising, it would probably bring in about $___________ per year." They did the math. They thought it still wasn't worth it.


What Google had to do was to blindly copy Fakebook and use its search engine to market the hell out of it while there was still hope. In other words be ruthless. But that trait comes easier to MarkZ than the Google trio. If you couldn’t, at least don’t use math guys to build a product for humans. You see Circles and collections and a plus one button may sound cute to HN audience but are far too complex ideas for an average user. The avg dude needs a textbox and a feed. Any value adding concept scrambles brains.


Circles were nice. The overall design was nice.

But was it original? To me, it seems that they directly copied quite a few UI elements and concepts from Diaspora, including circles: https://blog.dbrgn.ch/2011/8/23/google-plus-inspired-by-dias...


Lack of basic boolean logic to define interaction of a post into circles and groups and people.

The "how do I tell all my friends, except John, about a secret birthday party" problem. I complained about this near the launch.

I have a circle of friends in g+ I will miss, if they do not migrate to pluspora or a like service, which is inferior to g+ if not grossly inferior.


In my view there are two things FB achieved; they got people to come, and they got people to stay.

G+ got people to come, had an amazing position to abuse their monopoly just like with Chrome, but failed to hold them there.

And I believe the interface might have scared some away but I also believe there was nothing fun to occupy your time with while you're waiting for the next notification high.


Instead of a seperate UI, Google+ should have been integrated into Gmail. Then more people would naturally use it everyday. The integration would not center around a separate UI but features would be enhanced to gradually bring circles and the like into the core email experience. AOL managed to expand in this way with email and chat as core features.


Being integrated into Gmail didn't save Google Buzz. (That was also one of Buzz's early critical privacy missteps was being integrated into Gmail and showing up barely announced as opt-out rather than opt-in.)

If they were really smart, G+ should have better bootstrapped out of Google Reader. Google Reader at the time had a very interesting and active social community. (Instead they killed Reader as if it were a competitor to G+ and just hoped the now incredibly inconvenienced community would just move to G+.)


I think that would have made many people close their accounts, since such an integration wouldn't be welcomed by all.

I only use social networking for professional relations. Sharing anything beyond that with Google would be a nightmare, even if that is a minority opinion.

To the topic at hand: I think their failure was mainly a timing problem. Facebooks largest argument has always been that it is the largest network with the most users.

Many people didn't have an interest to change the network.


The reason I used Facebook (emphasis on the past tense here) and not Google+ is for one reason only:

I could not post something on my wife's "wall/timeline" in Google+.

This is different than "tagging" someone in that it goes on their page, not yours so their friends can see it.

I closed it and never used it again.


When you tag someone their friends can see it on her wall if she chooses to.


It had some great features, but the UI/UX was IMO wrong and I'm sure it's what turned people off about it.

So for example instead of having one stream of info, there were multiple columns. This goes against the scrolling list behavior that everyone seems addicted to.


> The design was so much nicer, ux so much smoother than everything else.

I disagree, It felt unpolished and raw and did not have any distinct style or consistency. You can hate facebook but they managed to cramp a lot of functionality in a pretty clean looking design.


I thought it was a great idea as a social network graph, so you could share things on various Google properties (e.g. ACLs for photos). It also had a lot of potential as a contact sync method.

Too bad Google kept promoting it like it was just another Facebook news feed.


It's a redirect to: https://erik.itland.no/what-did-google-get-right (I was just checking for url shorteners)


That is the real url. I was in a hurry and pasted the internal one.

It doesn't redirect automatically though.


Each of the individual features of Google+ sounded great on paper. I never used it so I can't comment on the implementation.

What killed it for me is that it came from Google. They'd already showed they're terrible at customer service, and terrible at service longevity/continuity, and it just seems creepy for the same company to want to do my web browser, my phone, my search engine, my social media, my web hosting, my advertising, my payments, my shared documents (editing and storage), etc.

It seems like, to Google engineers, "fully integrated with 173 other Google services" is a feature. To me, it's a red flag. If they want me to use any more services from them, they need to come up with some way to wall it off so I'm assured that any potential issues with X don't affect my usage of Y.


Back when Google+ launched, we weren't yet at the "Google is evil" stage. Social Media was just taking off.

What really killed it was no public API. It launched in the era of Tweetdeck and the like being major tools for consolidating social media interaction. There was no API. So to send a message to Google+, one had to specifically go across to the only application capable of talking to it, theirs. When you're already in/using Tweetdeck to post messages to Twitter, Facebook etc, why would you want to go to a whole new client to post a message?

While it seems like mostly people have moved away from using such catch-all clients for interacting (in no small part because Twitter have made it hard by their various API antics), this missed the zeitgeist at the time, and never got that critical mass going to sustain it.

If you're moving late in the market, you've really got to go where people are and bring them to you, or you've got to fundamentally solve problems to a mind blowing degree that other platforms have and can't. It did neither, even though the features like circle were really good.


Google unification didn't not work. It forced so many things brutally .. even with cool ideas it would remove value from the whole Google brand. (a tiny barely significant example: I lost my youtube channel due to g+ real name policy)

That said, Google+ had a good bunch of interesting people discussing things nicely (vintage computing, craftmanship). There was a lot to enjoy and way less of the social network usual noise and chit chat drama.


The rest of the Internet won.

On my way home today I wrote down why I liked it.


Good: Circles.

Bad: Circles privacy; who can see what. I found it confusing when it should have been obvious. This kept me from posting. The UI should have made it obvious.


What they got right was shutting down.

If only AMP would do the same.


The question is, what problem did Google+ solve?


It solved the problem of "It's 2016 and the fourth presidential debate. I want to post about Marco Rubio! But I don't want to annoy my non-political-junkie friends with this..." IIRC, Facebook had Friend Lists at the time, but it wasn't easy to share content exclusively with a friend list.


Google didn't have a social network, and their competitors did. /s

Seriously though, I really liked the Twitter-esque default-public interaction model, but with long form posts. Just doubling Twitter's character count has helped a ton with this. Public interaction still feels like an oddity on Facebook.

And then the ability to divide out people I was following was super nice, although I eventually filtered it down to two groups: One which I read religiously and had notifications of in my email, and one I would scroll through when I was bored and had time.


There was actually a brief period of time, right when google+ started, where everyone would just start a Google Hangout (which was released at the same time), and people were just chilling in the Hangouts.

That experience was cool. It felt like modern social square, to just have open video chats, than anyone would just join.


With so many people abandoning Facebook for Instagram or Twitter, perhaps G+ was just before its time.

Not many people were on it. Well, except the Dalai Lama. He rocked it!


That they are shutting themselves down.


It rid us of that awful Google Reader!


Aren't the circles really aimed at the spammer mentality? (e.g. I am broadcasting)


For me, circles seemed to do the opposite. Instead of blasting an update to every person on my friends list (coworkers, family, friends) I could limit the exposure to a subset.

This seemed like a better way to control spam in the ~3 posts I made on Google+.


Nothing


as an eexample of: it's not worth to screw your culture to pursue one(1) goal.




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