Google is now swinging open the gates to Google+, its invite-only social network, in the hopes that the company’s considerable worldwide clout will help it unseat Facebook. The fledgling social network is doing much right, like hosting interactive videoconferencing “hangouts,” considering privacy measures (even if belatedly), and offering the ability to edit posts. However, some decisions and omissions leave us a little cold.
To be fair, Google+ is only weeks old and is still generating its user base from among the hundreds of millions of Google account holders. While we don’t expect absolute perfection in a first-generation Google product any more than we would from other software vendors, a variety of us CNET editors using Google+ have pinpointed some flaws and missing links over the last few weeks; we’ve aggregated our strongest complaints here.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Parsing contacts into circles is more labor-intensive the more contacts you have, and the setup interface feels clunky. Like you, we have hundreds of contacts apiece, but in the circle interface, only 29 are visible at a time by default. You can drag the selection area down to reveal additional rows of potential contacts, which helps, though the proceeding still amounts to what is essentially a one-by-one drag-and-drop operation. It’s the same tedium when it comes to sorting an influx of contacts into circles.
In addition to the default contact view (pictured above), Google could consider a text-only list for assigning buddies by the batch. We had also hoped Google+ would be smarter about flagging and consolidating contacts with multiple e-mail addresses and entries.
Management options in general are a little sparse. For example, it’d be nice to reorder your circles in the Stream menu according to which ones you deem the most important.
In addition to choosing which circles of people you’d like to message, we’d also like to choose circles to exclude from a post, even if you choose the Public option. The post would still be visible to everyone who looked for it, but the broadcast itself wouldn’t surface in the stream for every one of your groups.
An additional approach to Google+ circles could help alleviate the sticky issue we CNET folk have with spamming people in our lives who don’t follow our tech stories while we’re trying to reach the people who do. Google+ could let people subscribe to a circle that the owner wishes to make public–for instance, a special-interest circle like tech, photography, motorcycles, music, or cooking. Not only would you reach your chosen circles, you’d also be able to reach total strangers who join the group of their own volition. Again, if you took that post public instead, your uninterested followers and friends would have to ignore or “mute” those conversation threads. Twitter has a similar ability to create and curate lists. Admittedly, some privacy implications could present hurdles.