When Google launched its “+ project” a little while ago, my initial thoughts were: is this going to fail the way Wave and Buzz did, and even if it doesn’t, do we really need yet another social network?
However I have to admit that to my great delight, Google+ has obviously benefited from the subtle design decisions that have recently been made across most of Googles other properties, possibly down to the fact that it was designed by Andy Hertzfeld, (designer of the original Mac software)!
After kindly being invited to join the beta and playing around with it for a few days, the thing that struck me was how the interface is incredibly slick, with some nice animated interactions (in particular try selecting multiple people and dragging them to a circle). These animations are not just for the sake of it, either: they are experience-enhancing touches that Google’s design team has obviously put a lot of thought into!
The slick design and nice feature touches could be the reason why there’s been more than 1 million new users a day since the service launched. A growth figure that might give Mark Zuckerberg cause to look over his shoulder!
Ok, with Facebook currently having over 700 million users, that might not be the case, as it certainly has the advantage right now, but the company can’t just pretend that Google+ will follow Google Wave and die a quiet death.
If users of both services get frustrated with having to repeat themselves and repeat actions multiple times, they will end up choosing the sleeker social network over the older, tired one. I’m reminded of the Facebook and MySpace struggle of 2004-2010—except this time Facebook risks repeating MySpace’s mistakes.
Instead, I think Facebook should make possibly a somewhat unexpected move and allow Google+ users to import their friends from Facebook to Google+. Facebook should deal with Google+ the same way it dealt with Twitter: Permit Google+ users to link their updates to Facebook and, in exchange, Facebook opens up its content to Google+.
Imagine exporting your Facebook friends to Google+, organising them into smaller Circles and a larger “Facebook” Circle, and then updating your status in Google+ with a #fb hashtag (as Twitter allows you to do) to make the update appear in your Facebook news feed.
Another thing Facebook should think about is trying to compete with Google+ circles.
In my opinion the best innovation of Google+ (so far) is Circles, and the idea that your social graph doesn’t boil down to a binary “friend” or “not friend,” like Facebook is limited to. With that being said I think Facebook could compete quite rapidly. It already has a Lists feature, though I’d guess not many people use it. From the Friends interface, you can click Manage Friend List, and start segregating your social graph. You can even put friends in multiple lists, just as you can sort them in multiple Circles on Google+. Right now, Lists are used only to control who can see which parts of your profile.
Really, all Facebook needs to do is make the Lists feature more prominent and ubiquitous. If Facebook were to allow wall posts, photo/video sharing, event invitations, and all other instances of social sharing to be sent to specific lists, the company would essentially duplicate the functionality of Circles. Obviously, Facebook would want to prompt users to put their friends in a list each time they add a friend, and the entire Lists interface needs work, but those are problems that Facebook could solve in the short term. The underlying technology (the hard part) is already part of the platform.