Google+ Has Lots of Minuses

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Normally I like to be subtle about these things, but I’ll start this article off by just blurting out my opinion: Google+ is not “a new way to social network” and it is certainly not “a Facebook killer” as proposed by some of those who have gotten an invite to Google+. In fact, it took me all of ten minutes playing around on the website to find it exceedingly distasteful.

Let me explain my displeasure with Google+. On the surface, Google+ looks like a watered down Facebook. No interesting colors, no snazzy applications or notably intriguing interface stood out to me. Because Google+ is set up similarly to Facebook, you might end up thinking it will function just like Facebook, which, unfortunately, it doesn’t. You click on things thinking they will do things, but they do not do these things you thought they would do. Too vague? Sorry, let me rephrase that with a hypothetical situation.

Suppose I am interested in the Tour De France. How do I find a Tour de France page? If I was on Facebook, I would simply search “Tour de France,” find the page, and click “Like.” Done. The updates and posts from Tour de France would appear in my newsfeed. On the other hand, I can’t simply “Like” things on Google+. I have to either add them to my circles, forcing me to designate them into bizarre, arbitrary groups, or “Plus One” them, which won’t actually make a difference to my “Plus Page,” just make their webpage more popular so it shows up in Google searches more frequently.

Also, I should note that I don’t find and add the Tour de France as a “Like” page (because that would be copyright infringement, I guess) but rather, I go under the “Sparks” section of my Google+ page and find things I like. Basically, it accomplishes the same thing, with one notable difference. On Facebook, you “Like” a page, and you’re connected to it. There’s a distinct personality. Google+ does the same thing, but with all of the personality one expects to find on a random web search.

And to backtrack a little, on Google+, you don’t have “Friends,” you have “Circles.” Circles are basically Facebook “Groups,” except a Circle is a weird private thing that only you can see. So, while you can see all of the people in my circles, you can’t see which specific Circles they’re in. I may have a Circle for “People I plan to murder” or “Girls I regularly follow around campus from several feet away” and YOU could be in it! And you’d never know. Eerie.

But before you Google+ fans start attacking me, let me make one thing clear. Those features are really cool. “Plus One”-ing is probably the coolest thing that I have ever done, not in terms of the Google+ social networking experience, but because I now have some input on what’s really popular on the Internet. And circles? It’s a groovy idea of a way to organize your address book. The thing about those features is, as cool as they are, they alone are not enough to redeem a rather unsatisfactory social networking experience. The invite-only beta of Google+ does not wow, and, to be honest, it would be better if these features were simply add-ons to the already effective Gmail, which, as everybody knows, is the best email on the planet.

But, while Google+ may not be good enough to murder Facebook, it may induce Zuckerberg’s creation to take its own life.

If you haven’t checked your Facebook in the last week or so, then you might not have noticed that some very stupid changes have been made. Mainly, Facebook’s design team thought that its style was too É straight, so they gave 90% of the webpage rounded edges. Then, they completely demolished their chat system. I mean, DESTROYED it. At the moment, it’s annoyingly difficult to tell who’s online. Also, you can no longer click on people’s names in chat windows to go to their profile, and although that’s only a minor inconvenience, it gets surprisingly frustrating. It’s just É lame. Lame is the only word that comes to mind.

Ironically, this is one area that Google+ sort of delivers on (this, and no Farmville.) In Google+, instead of a limited text chat window, you can have a “Hangout,” with options for text, audio, and video, and you can invite up to 10 people. The novelty fades, but it sure kicks the new Facebook chat into the curb.

So, in conclusion, current Google+ will not do to Facebook what Facebook did to Myspace É unless Facebook does what Myspace did, and continually makes inconvenient, unnecessary changes.

Ryan Cady is a second-year psychology major.  He can be reached at rcady@uci.edu.

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