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Google+ Project: It’s Social, It’s Bold, It’s Fun, And It Looks Good (techcrunch.com)
291 points by philipDS on June 28, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 78 comments

I'm very excited to try this out. Context (AKA "Circles") is the biggest feature Facebook still hasn't gotten right. By mirroring the way we think about our social graph in real life, Google is making a huge step toward converging Online and Offline identity. It will be very interesting to see how Facebook responds to this... they might finally have a competitor.

Paul Adams, the previous social research lead in the Google UX team, explained why context matters in this very interesting presentation (12 months old!):

http://www.slideshare.net/padday/the-real-life-social-networ... (discussed at http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1867807 )

According to his blog ( http://www.thinkoutsidein.com/blog/ ), he now works at Facebook, and focuses "on researching and designing better ways for businesses and people to communicate and interact". My guess is that Facebook is already preparing its response...

Facebook has gotten increasingly harder and more convoluted to manage. Case in point: no direct way to edit the photos in an album. Used to be so easy.

What do you mean? It's in the same place it's been in for a while. From the sidebar, Photos -> My Uploads -> Edit Album.

Sure the light box makes it harder if you go that way. Click on the Album name -> Edit Album -> Edit Photos.

Well, I'm glad there are some significant new features that Google is trying to use as leverage. Group video chat comes to mind as something that most people don't like to deal with, but as an integral part of a social network, I can see it making more sense.

Its clear they've tried not just to 'clone' Facebook, which I appreciate.

I have been an anti-wave, anti-buzz but I just tried Google+ and it's great. I think this time Google really can kick FB. Great, simple interface and integrated to my gmail, picasa, contacts, gtalk it is definitely great!

I love the circles philosophy and UX.

One problem is the restriction on invites. Google+ is valuable to me if I can share things with others, just like I do it in FB right now. They have to enable invites soon or the early adopters will get bored and leave forever.

Would you mind fielding some questions? I'm interested to know if the photo sharing is any good? Do the full-resolution versions stick around? Are the management features any good?

It reduces the dimensions of the picture, however it keeps a good quality.

Album management is great and it pulls/pushes your pictures from Picasa.

The album UI is also great.

I just found that the navigation bar of gmail is now extended so I can see notifications and comment on them without going to Google+

It's a FB killer :o

Things are going to get interesting in that space. If the people that I relate with get into Google+ I wouldn't need to check my FB. And they can get more people in by pluging it to Google Apps users.

I haven't looked closely at what happens when you upload an image to Google+, but I can tell you that it's trivially easy to share photos out of Picasa, which does let you get the originals.

Does Google Circles show up as group tags in Google Contacts? And vice versa?

From the presentation, Google Circles sounds like a great UI for the already existing group tags funcionality. The group tags are also already used for sharing in Picasa.

They seem to be different. They have predefined circles (e.g. Family, Friends) and you can create others. However I don't see a Create a Circle from a Contacts Group.

I'm not sure if I would want that as I normally don't update my Contacts groups.

Okay, there are way too many posts on Google+ on HN right now, but I do have an opinion I would like to share and this thread seems to be the most appropriate.

When I first heard the news about Google+ today, my initial reaction was wow, Google is going to fail again. I mean, with Wave, and then Buzz, and I figured this was just another in the line of failures.

However, after looking into it and reading about it, it is actually very cool looking. I look forward to trying it out live when it's ready.

I get the feeling everyone was expecting their effort to be rather, dare I say it... rubbish. But, it looks nice and I think a lot of people are pleasantly surprised by that.

Buzz was a blatant twitter clone, and I disabled it as quickly as I enabled it - whereas I'm actually finding myself excited to try this.

Awesome, can't wait to try it! Circles sounds like just what everyone wants. I think I'd switch to any half-decent social network made by Google. I do hope they provide a way to use the Facebook data export to make switching easy.

Same here. Although I don't necessarily envy them; Facebook has a huge advantage by virtue of network effects.

I don't know anyone who really likes Facebook; they've alienated users with privacy missteps and stupid interface changes over and over and over. But everyone keeps using it because that's where everyone else is. Somehow you have to break that cycle.

If anyone can do it though, it's probably Google. They effectively broke the back of the fat-and-lazy AOL Instant Messenger (at least in my experience) when they built chat into Gmail. Once they did that, AIM went from a "must-have" on most of my friends' computers to something they barely remember their login information to anymore.

Here's hoping they can find some leverage to get a critical mass of users over from Facebook.

Facebook certainly benefits from network effects, but it will be interesting to see if Google can benefit from the potential of complementarity between its products that Facebook doesn't have. In my mind, two of Google's most valuable assets are Chrome and its affiliation with Android, both of which have been gaining marketshare. If they get a non-invasive Chrome toolbar and a sleek Android app out, you could get Google+ in front of a whole lot of users pretty quickly and make it a natural extension of people's mobile and browsing activity.

Also, Circles might help mitigate the network effect advantage of Facebook. Even if only one of your real-life circles (say your early adopting tech nerd friends) sign up at first, it can provide some functionality while it is still being more widely adopted by other groups.

Facebook's interface is much better than Orkut's interface, Orkut is a social network that was acquired by Google some years ago, and it does have the broadcast feature that made twitter popular, so Brazilians, were Orkut was really popular, loves Facebook.

I think that Google can leverage adoption by targeting android users and creating a good application for them.

EDIT: Orkut still is really popular here in Brazil but the majority of my friends migrated to Facebook and do not login in Orkut anymore.

Orkut afaik was a 10% project, and named after its author.

You should give circleriot.com a try. They pretty have much the same concept.

Facebook would go any length to not let off their social graph to be consumed by Google.

I have to admit that the stuff shown on Googles demo page looks really good. I really appreciate the focus on social circles as I really don't want to share everything with everyone but rather address different groups of friends.

Overall this seems to be very well thought through with some fresh ideas.

Unlike on Facebook, people do not have to agree to be friends with one another. They can receive someone’s updates without sharing their own

So it's like a reverse twitter, where you choose who can follow you?

That depends on your definition of "follow". You can choose to add someone to your circle without them reciprocating. In that sense, you are following them.

However, they choose which of their circles see the things they post. So you can follow whomever you want, but the people you follow may not necessarily broadcast to you if you do so.

So then it will still work like twitter if a celebrity goes on and just publishes everything as "public", then anyone can subscribe to them.

Yes, plus Circles. Circles are vital.

Circles? On Tau Day? YES.

Hadn't made the link before that, how clever :)

If they pull a Wave and only invite users in small groups it is doomed on arrival. This thing needs to be free and massively available like Gmail. Social is not like email - you need wide participation in order for it to succeed.

You have to submit an email address to request access. I'm wondering if they are using their gmail address book data to see which emails are connected to each other before handing out invites. So if 10 of my close friends and I (who all have each other in our gmail address books) request invites, we'd be more likely to all get accepted than interested individuals with no interested contacts.

That might be a smart way to ramp up.

Also remember that Facebook started out very privately, too.

If it gains any sort of traction there's probably going to be inevitable breakage due to the growing pains of adding potentially millions of users a day. It's hard to win in this situation.

Gmail used to be invite only.

Gmail can be successful regardless of whether or not your friends use it.

A social network is only as successful as the number of friends using it.

Facebook did well on this by opening up things campus by campus ensuring that all your friends in your university were all allowed to use it at the same time.

Gmail used to be infinitely better than everything else on the market. So closing it it off made it only more scarce and sought after than it already was. Now if plus is even finitely better than everything else, so that artificial scarcity will make it seem more valuable, is debatable. It's a rather risky bet Google has already lost once with Wave.

I can remember people selling GMail invites for a decent amount at the very beginning of their launch.

Email isn't exactly this type of walled-garden social however, so it's not an apt comparison.

That's why I said social is not like email. I'm more comparing the Google+ rollout to Wave, since some of the features seem to be similar to Wave.

I was referring to "This thing needs to be free and massively available like Gmail."

Yeah massively available like Gmail - I meant after it opened up from invite-only status.

Email is easy to bootstrap because any client can talk using SMTP. Social does not have a protocol - although that might be cool if it did so we didn't have the "all your data are belong to us" problems of Facebook and Google.

I'd have to see these Circles in action, but if they're what I think they are (e.g. you'd make a "Work" circle, a "Family" circle, a "Casual Acquaintance" circle, etc.), then Diaspora has that concept: They call them "aspects". I must admit, "circle" seems like a better term than "aspect", though.

Appleseed (http:/opensource.appleseedproject.org) used "circles" to categorize friends a few years before Diaspora.

It's not a very revolutionary concept, though. Livejournal had friends lists almost a decade ago, for instance.

I would agree that it's not a very complex or innovative idea. I'm assuming Facebook is intentional in not doing the same sort of thing, aiming for simplicity (everyone in one circle).

Facebook launched at schools not called Harvard the Summer preceding my freshman year of college. It went live at my school a few weeks into that first semester. I enjoyed it immensely and observed it carefully, but sometime in 2007 it really began to wear on me. Later, (~2 or 3 years ago) I more or less withdrew from using it altogether.

Circles addresses something like 70% of my gripes with Facebook. Of course, we still haven't seen Google successfully build a social network, so nothing's really been addressed until everyone joins the party (or doesn't). Google+ looks interesting though.

Too bad my primary Google account is my Apps account for my primary domain, and since Apps accounts don't have associated Profiles anymore, I don't get to play. Then again, I'm still dealing with the fallout of the transition to "The New" Google Apps, having already used my domain email as a Google account to sign up for really exotic things like Google Reader, so perhaps I don't need yet another new plaything at the moment.

I will add that I think the Huddle and Hangout components may offer—in the case of the former—good competition both on Android and in general to iOS Messaging/BBM (the only hang-up that has me short of sold on iOS messaging is people don't yet think of their Apple IDs as communication accounts/channels, their Gmail accounts on the other hand...), and—in the case of the latter—someone not only to compete with Foursquare, but perhaps to answer the question from normal folks: Why "check in" anywhere to begin with? (Because you've arrived at the "anywhere" you just "Huddled" over meeting at, your phones already know it, and if you acknowledge their requests to "Hangout" together, even more of your friends may show up. Or something. That last part's a little hazier for me. What if you want to broadcast to the world that you're enjoying your new favorite tea spot, but you don't want to say which 5 people you're with and risk persons 6 and 7 whom were specifically not invited showing up? In any event it seems to me a more human workflow than "Go places, check in, get points/kittens/whatevr."

Ironically, the "Keep Me Posted" page has Javascript blocked by Chrome.

I'm really excited I don't have to build my own XMPP Muji client[1]. Hang-outs are something I've wanted for a long long time; passive virtual spaces. Goonfleet used to go crazy with Stickam, but it was more event oriented, less passive. Hopefully this can be a good marker in helping people actually communicate and build community over the net, v. individual play.

[1] http://telepathy.freedesktop.org/wiki/Muji

"Passive virtual space", neat term. I've wanted something similar for my living-room screen for a while. In some towns, people used to see their neighbors out on their porch and go over for a chat... but my friends are all across town or state/country/globe. So when not in use for something else, why not let the big screen break that spatial and mental barrier to casual chats.

If G+ knows individuals, then search results served to other known (or unknown) individuals could reflect the subject individual's 'circles' settings. Ergo, individuals in general have a significant, possibly material, incentive to take part in G+ to the greatest extent possible.

search > social

> If G+ knows individuals, then search results served to other known (or unknown) individuals could reflect the subject individual's 'circles' settings

Yeah, it would be really interesting to see which of my other friends would make it into the "Midget porn" circle, or into the "How do you kill yourself?" circle or the "How do I get rich?" circle, all these based on our collective Google searches.

I think the idea is that you could share pics of your latest furry costume with your 'fur-friends' circle, without your parents or potential employers even knowing that circle exists.

What's even better, is that there is technically nothing stopping Google from keeping your employer from finding all the great ideas you've been giving away on HN, if you've somehow associated your HN account with a circle... unless said employer comes directly to HN, obviously.

it feels so closed off. Silo'd. Makes me shudder.

That's one of the first things I noticed, too. I imagine something this full-featured will be hard to open-source/make open protocols for/federate like they tried with Wave and Buzz, but I hope they aren't abandoning those ideas after the disastrous way those turned out.

> to open-source/make open protocols for/federate like they tried with Wave and Buzz

What's funny is that everyone (Google included) got preoccupied with the tech demo UI for Wave, but the really interesting stuff was happening under the hood. If you look at what Wave was trying to do with sending arbitrary data between federated servers, all tied into contact management and privacy controls, it basically would have been the perfect foundation for a social network. In fact if you look at projects like OneSocialWeb[1] or Diaspora, they're similarly built on top of XMPP with an approach not entirely dissimilar to what Wave was doing.

I really, really think Google missed the mark marketing wise with Wave, and I wonder how much, if any, code has carried over to Google+.

[1] http://onesocialweb.org/

I don't know about Google+ but a lot of the internals of Wave were carried over into Google Docs.

If the choice is between "closed and successful" or "open and failed", what would you choose?

"open and failed" at this point can provide a powerful proof-of-concept, whereas "closed and successful" doesn't necessary teach us anything new.

Very bad marketing here. Whoever chose the name "Google+" should be fired. First, the name confuses people with google's +1 button. Second, what does "+" have anything to do with a social network? It gives you no information at all about the service. They should have called it "google circles" and emphasized that Google Circles let you compartmentalize your social network, as opposed to facebook. Bam, instant differentiation. Instead we have a product that tries to do too much and needs a demo to make people understand.

I actually think not coming up with a clever or descriptive name is actually the right move here. Instead of setting it up as yet another new service from Google that you'll have to decide whether to invest time into or not, it advertises more as an enhancement of the features everyone uses already.

Its not like Google's gonna get people to divest themselves of Facebook (not in the near future anyway), so they've got to position themselves as an auxiliary rather than an alternative.

My guess is that this is deliberate: the g+ sparks feature is meant to complement the +1 buttons, and at some point they hope to talk about +1 as part of g+.

Can't seem to find it now, but I'm pretty sure I recall seeing +1 mentioned as a feature of Google+ in one of the about pages when I signed up for an invite.

Ah, good call.

It's mentioned in the Google+ help centre: http://www.google.com/support/+/

Thing's I noticed trying out the demo:

- You can only have add a person to one "circle". If I wanted to add someone to two or more, I'm SOL. Maybe they will change this.

- A "circle" can only contain a certain number of users before it runs out of room. I haven't seen how it deal with this - does it shrink the circles as you add more? What happens if there are 500 people in one, would they be a bunch of 1 x 1 pixel dots? Or does the circle just say "You can't add any more people"?

1) I saw this elsewhere, apparently its a demo limitation.

2) I also thought this and decided the circles probably just get really big. We will see however!

> You can only have add a person to one "circle".

Huh? Yes you can. (I just did.)

The demo has a number in the middle of the circle, I'm guessing the faces are just subset of the users in that circle.

That seems reasonable, but how do you do anything useful with the faces if you can only see a subset? This is why I am a sorted lists man :)

I'm hoping they're doing something clever with it.

Like showing the last people online or the most frequently interacted with etc.

I tried it and you can have people in several circles. Perhaps your interface is giving you some problems.

beck5 pointed out that it's a demo limitation, so that is good to know

I see they're using their 'winning' wave strategy again.

1. launch a social platform, but restrict signups to the point where nobody with access has any contacts on the service

2. keep it locked down until the buzz/hype is all gone

3. open it up to everyone and let them wonder why there was any buzz/hype in the first place

If they dont let early adopters use the platform and give the crucial early feedback, they might as well throw in the towel now.

Actually this is the first sign I've seen that Google has actually learned some lessons from their failures.

First, this seems much more carefully thought out. The promotional material is beautiful, simple, well targeted and clear. Restraining from a full public launch shows they have learned from Buzz which failed in part because they got things wrong early and didn't correct fast enough. This shows a much needed loss of arrogance.

One other thing that makes it different: 500k Android activations per day. It will be very interesting to see if this gets pushed out as a default installed app to Android devices. Google never leveraged Android well to promote Buzz and I never understood why. Hopefully they won't be so shy this time around.

> "Everyone has high-speed networks these days"

Oh really? Tell that to a bunch of my friends who are either forced onto dial up, or 1.5Mb internet.

Not everyone lives in a big city.

I actually have 256Kb adsl

Apparently another feature was to automatically set your gchat status to "available". That explains why I got a bunch of messages yesterday morning.

Anyone want to wager when Google Mindmaps will debut?

I might delay learning anything about Google+ until I have some evidence that Google is not going to kill it in a few months :)

Not sure what you'd consider evidence, but the Wired article by Steven Levy (the guy who wrote In the Plex) contains this quote:

No one expects an instant success. But even if this week’s launch evokes snark or yawns, Google will keep at it. Google+ is not a product like Buzz or Wave where the company’s leaders can chalk off a failure to laudable ambition and then move on. “We’re in this for the long run,” says Ben-Yair. “This isn’t like an experiment. We’re betting on this, so if obstacles arise, we’ll adapt.”


I haven't heard anything about API's or developers.

Another annoying case of "do no evil" not implying anything about actually pushing the state forward or helping. I'm not altogether that interested in the greater of the two silos, although I am excited by a state of play other than facebook moseying down the field palming the ball in one hand.

I hope it won't be blocked in China.

I wonder what huddle.com has to say about Google's Huddle..

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