Google pluses and Google minuses

I’m unashamedly a Google ‘anorak’.  You know that strange glazed-eyes look you see in ‘anoraks’ of Apple products, especially those with an ‘i’ in front of their name, and the snarling anger they express when people point out that whilst Apple products are lovely and shiny they don’t yet have the functionality of the rest of the world of computing and mobile telephony?  Well, I’m a bit like that when it comes to things Google.

However, most of my love for Google is for the products they offer that are very useful and make my life easier, rather than their shininess.  And, unlike Apple products which cost an over-the-top fortune, Google products are free.  Ok, they are not free free, and in most cases the symbiotic price I pay of being watched, scanned and analysed and converted into a statistic so that I can be very subtly targeted or sold on is a symbiotic relationship I am very happy with.

I would happily pay for Google Maps and Streetview, they are part of my life when checking out locations and places I need to then drive to, as is Latitude, tracking where I am and telling selected others.  I use Google’s Blogger system for free to host this very blog.  I regularly use Google Chat to have quick text, audio or video chats across my workforce, buy things via Google checkout, and love using Google Chrome as probably the most advanced and easiest of the browsers, and the way it ‘syncs’ to me regardless of which machine I’m using is brilliant.

Although I’m a little bit peeved with aspects of Google Documents, especially when it comes to the actual documents, I’m impressed by the forms and spreadsheets and many other aspects, including real-time collaboration.

Most importantly I’m an avid user of Google Apps for Domains, which means that all my email, across both business and pleasure, is held ‘in the cloud’ and I no longer have any need whatsoever for highly expensive Microsoft products that go out of date immediately they are installed and need me to pay for upgrades.

Yep, my life with Google is either free or relatively cheap, and we are a happy couple.

However, there are issues.  Google Apps for Domains (which means that, for example, ‘christopherengland.com’ is mapped into Google, managed via their ‘cloud’ servers and uses a hybrid Gmail system over which I have Administration rights) is, for different reasons, not compatible with a few other Google products.  One of the products is Google Profiles.  So, even though I’m using Google for everything ‘christopherengland.com’, I can’t have an associated Google Profile.

Without a Google Profile, I can’t access Google+.  Noooooooooooooo!

In fact, to use Google+ I need to completely log out of all of my domains hosted via Google Apps, and log into a single direct Gmail/Google account.  I can’t be logged into all at the same time.  This is confusing because I can normally ‘switch’ between different Google Apps accounts and have them all open at the same time for things like email, but have to shut them all should I wish to play with Google+.  That’s not good.  Not good at all.

This problem is one which needs to be addressed as soon as possible for the more dedicated Google ‘anoraks’, otherwise the inherent loyalty we have will be lost and we will continue to just stick with Facebook and Twitter, oh yes we will.

Apart from the problem of being a Google Apps customer, and effectively locked out of Google+ (and Google Profiles), I’m going to have to be honest and say I don’t see Google+ being a runaway success.

Ok, most Google users aren’t Google Apps users, so it’ll only be a tiny few that are niggled in the way I’ve described, but they are Facebook users.

Facebook is so embedded into every day culture that I really can’t see a migration to Google+.  Sure, people will try it, and there will be a hard core of the Facebook-haters who will love its openness and the fact that it doesn’t expose their privacy to the world, and all the bad things that Facebook does that Google+ doesn’t, but the reality is that the average user doesn’t actually care what Facebook does to them or with them. They live out their lives blended into Facebook anyway, dramatically breaking-up and arguing and ‘hating’ other humans all in public via Facebook, so in context, their details being sold on matter not a jot to them.

Google has already dramatically failed with Google Wave, which I never understood the purpose of from the day it was first launched by Google employees who all seemed to be talking like they’d discovered some bizarre recreational drug or a new ‘god’ to share with us all.  Then Google kind of integrated it a bit and sort of relaunched it, although it was supposedly a completely new product, as Google Buzz.  True, more people used and still use Google Buzz, but it doesn’t really have a place in the world, plus it’s damn hard to get rid of.  There were also privacy issues a while back which scared people and quite damaged public confidence in Google.

So, along comes Google+, which we hope has learned from the mistakes and failings of Wave and Buzz, and it’s repositioned itself as a sexier than Facebook social network.  It is.  However, mistake number one is trying to sell it as if it is something it isn’t.  The advertising and promotional videos that virally explain it are like the weird shit that came out to push Google Wave.  People need it explained more directly, not to be talked at by weirdos who sound like they must be high.  It’s not big and it’s not clever.

Big and clever, however, is what Google+ is.  I like it, and I like it as part of the bigger picture and part of my ‘total experience’ as I work and play on-line.  I find it easy and intuitive, and potentially very useful.  It enhances Google products I already use and integrates with them, unlike Wave and Buzz (although the Google Apps issue is a very major one for me).

However, whilst I don’t see Google+ failing as such, I don’t see it killing Facebook or effectively changing the face of social media any time soon.  It would be excellent if it did!