Now that Plus has launched, it's interesting to compare to what I wrote about my predictions for what circles could be in the light of (at the time) Twitter's only mistake – the dreaded dickbar. At the time, I wrote:
So, what could Google innovate on? Well, to be a success (over and above Buzz), it has to have:
- An open API, probably backed with OpenID/OAuth/OAuth2 to permit additional clients being developed
- A way of *not* having any and all messages delivered to your e-mail, especially when it's from yourself
- Have a way of associating groups of people and defining groups by role, e.g. “public”, “friends”, “work colleagues”, “family” and have a way of switching visibility on a per-message basis
- A way of uploading video/pictures along with text messages, probably from portable mobile devices with cameras
On top of all this, Google almost certainly needs to have a couple of native clients, not just a web client, to demonstrate that anyone can join in.
So far, it's early days to expect there to be a public API so the first point is still out for the jury. The second point has been a facepalm episode – every time someone comments on your post, you get an e-mail notifying you that something has happened. It's like Douglas Adam's button on Disaster Area's stunt ship, which when you press it lights up a light saying “Do not press this button again.” Fortunately, theres various settings that you can change, including email delivery, which you can adjust to your liking afterwards (read: none).
On the plus side, they do appear to have created the circles aspect I alluded to, with friends and family (although they call friends ‘acquaintances’, which might be a sensible rewording of the term). And it looks like it may be integrated with mobile devices to the extent where picture uploads will become possible – there's an Android client already, with an iOS client in the works.
One of the things that limited invites does is increase scarceness, which in turn, pushes up the value of something. At the moment, Google+ is new, and people are wanting to get on board.
But the power of a social network is for it to grow at its own speed. Indeed, the more people are in your social network, the more likely you are to use it (and conversely, the less people you know, the less you are likely to use it). Wave died a death because people though “What is this for?” when there was no-one to share it with. And with waves of people (wanting to) join Google+, but no-one there, it means you end up with a much more restricted set of people to talk with. As Martin Gratzer said on twitter: “Ok, this is how Google+ looks like. First impression, nice look & feel. Facebook clone with Buzz integration, video chat minus 800 friends.”
This may just be growing pains. According to Google, they opened then closed invites (source). But it's likely the early adopters who are interested in joining in the first place; similarly, those early adopters are often the most influential (technically) with their friends and often have connected networks in the first place. By creating artificial scarceness, the net effect may be to limit the number of fully connected networks that grow in the early stages, leaving the early adopters to walk away and thus impact the growth.
One thing's for sure. Both Buzz and Wave failed in the adoption stakes. By addressing the privacy issues of Facebook, coupled with the ease of use for Twitter and native clients, Google+ may be a success hit – even if you can't search for it by name. And, if you want to follow me I'm alblue on Google+.