Google+ not just circles

By Matt Cornock

This is the final part of a three-part series on Google+. The first part covered what makes a social network, the second looked at how Google+ Circles offer a user-friendly contact management systems, and this third part will highlight some of the other features and deliberate addressing of flaws with Facebook.

Essentially, a large majority of complaints about Facebook is its difficulty in letting go of users’ data, and giving users the power to control not only where the data is distributed too but also the ownership of being able to delete data.

Privacy at the heart

Stepping back out of Google+ a little, with Google’s recent Google Account upgrades users are now able to see on a single page how they share their data across all Google services (see my example below which shows my YouTube settings). On the ‘Privacy Dashboard’ each service, for example Calendar, YouTube, Blogger, Analytics, Webmaster Tools, has a set of icons next to key data sharing elements which indicates whether something is public to the world or not.

Screenshot of Google Privacy dashboard for a YouTube account

My Privacy Dashboard for my YouTube account shows how many videos I have public and private and how I share my personal information

Google is deliberately trying to be transparent about what is being shared and to whom. In the same way Google+ offers the ability for users to control not just each individual profile element to different circles, but also individual posts.

Users own their data

Facebook already has a ‘download your profile’ system which allows users to export their profile out. Google+ unashamedly has done the same, and added a little bit extra offering downloading of different components.

Screenshot of Google accounts download page

Google offers individual downloads of your profile, photos, stream and contacts

It’s good to see that this is built into Google+ from the start and encourages a level of trust between the user and Google that users can keep copies (backups) of their data.

Google+ will let you leave

Unlike Facebook which still insists on ‘disabling’ a profile, Google+ allows you to delete it. Yes, that’s right, it’s a social network which allows you to delete yourself from the network.

Screenshot of Google Accounts delete functions

Google Account screenshot showing delete functionality

Once again, this brings an element of trust into the equation where Google+ is openly offering users to delete their profile, rather than insist on keeping a ghostly image in existence.

Future development

One of my big bug-bears though at the moment with Google+ is that there is next to no integration with the other Google services you might subscribe to. I have already mentioned that it would be great for Circles to integrate with GMail contacts for quick emailing. It would also be a bit of a dream to be able to post to Twitter from Google+ (perhaps Twitter could be an option in the post sharing button equivalent to a ‘Circle’) and similarly import Twitter posts onto my Stream as at the moment I’m posting in two places. I am though excited about the prospect of Picasa integration and if Flickr integration isn’t developed the same way, I may just take a punt and move to Picasa. However, the obvious downside is that Picasa is not as prominent in Google Image search as Flickr.

Screenshot of Google+ connect accounts page

Google+ connect accounts page offers promise, but at the moment only offers a link to be attached to your profile rather than any integration and data sharing

I think that these developments will come in time, and I hope that they will be more blended in that the mish-mash that is Facebook.

Google+ / Facebook Comparison

As my final note on this topic, I just wanted to present the difference of visual appearance of two key screens each from Google+ and Facebook. In a year or so’s time we can reflect on these!

First page when logged in

Screenshot of Facebook - the first page you see when you log in

Facebook: the first page you see when you log in to Facebook is the ‘News Feed’, usually set to ‘Most Popular’ rather than recent

Screenshot of Google+ first page

Google+: the first page you see when you log into Google+ is the Stream, shown in reverse chronological order

Profile (owner’s view)

Screenshot of Facebook profile

Facebook: the profile is home to the wall where you/others (if you wish) post items, on the left are lists of people and on the right are adverts. The profile ‘tab’s are accessed using the list of options just below the profile picture, top left.

Screenshot of Google+ profile

Google+: the Google+ profile also has a wall-like scren, featuring posts you have made. On the left are Circle information with pictures no names (hover over for name of person). The profile tabs are accessed as tabs at the top of the screen.

As a side note, it took me twice as long to blur out ‘friends’ faces and comments on my facebook screenshots as it did on the Google+ screenshots. If you look at the area dedicated to names, pictures and text which isn’t about you on Facebook you start to understand why. 

I think you’ll agree that the sheer volume of text and images that Facebook bombard on the screen (and not to mention the myriad of JavaScript which makes my netbook keel over) makes Facebook less appealing to use than the clean, minimalism of the current Google+. I wonder how long it will take though for Google+ to end up looking the same way?

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