Is Google+ a legitimate threat to Facebook or just another half-baked social network?
The service already shows promise as the latest challenger to the throne with features for selectively posting content, chatting in a private hub called a Hangout, and viewing a news stream that suits your tastes.
The clean interface is attractive and ad-free, but Google needs to add new features quickly before the full rollout. Here are ten we want.
1. Improve Circles
Circles is a brilliant idea - Google obviously picked the one feature in Facebook that has never worked right. You can post messages to select groups, but Facebook still maintains a general feed for your profile. Anyone you have friended can see your profile. With Google+, you can select who sees the content you post. Still, it is a bit simplistic. We'd like to see sub-categories under each Circle and a better way to add users en masse, especially from one entire account like Twitter.
2. Analytics dashboard
For a company that practically invented analytics (with Google Analytics), we're surprised there are few reporting features. You can't see a daily summary of new (and lost) followers, and there is no scorecard that shows whether other users are re-posting your content and commenting - it needs something like SproutSocial (below). A daily snapshot would help motivate new users to engage with the service more. And, a feature that even shows whether people are clicking on your links, similar to the Bit.ly link-shortener, would also help add some value that Facebook lacks.
3. iPhone/iPad app
Anyone with an Android smartphone can download the Google+ app, but that leaves out iPhone and BlackBerry users. The iPhone app would be particularly useful for those who rely on a contacts database on the road - with Google+, it would be easy to find new colleagues and chat with co-workers, or even find new business customers. We'd also welcome a tablet version where you can drag contacts into Circles and chat over the built-in camera. This is reported to be imminent, so we'll see.
4. Search by interest and occupation
Right now, Google+ only lets you search for other users by name. That's disappointing, given that Google is the biggest name in search. We'd like to see a way to search for people with common interests, or even who work in the same field. There are few features for searching by location, and you can't even find former classmates or colleagues.
5. Better Twitter integration
The Extended Share for Google Plus extension for Chrome lets you send your posts to Twitter and Facebook, but we want a feature that works the other way, Google+ is the new kid on the block. For those who post on Twitter exclusively, and then feed those posts to other services and a blog, we want to the ability to send posts to Google+ as the service ramps up and more people start signing up over the next few months.
6. Facebook import
Speaking of better integration, we'd also like to see an "import from Facebook" feature. Facebook closes their data from the world - you can't export all of your photos, for example. Tools like Facebook Friend Exporter could have solved the problem, but Facebook has blocked the tool. A workaround is to import all of your contacts to Yahoo Mail, then import the Yahoo contact into Google+. Can't we all just get along? Google should be able to make a Facebook Connect feature to bring in your friends from the competing service using OAuth.
7. Block Inappropriate content
You can post a rude picture on Google+ without any warning. That's a sign of an early beta. Google told us that explicit content can be flagged, but Facebook does a much better job of analysing images and blocking those that would be offensive. Google has an image recognition tech baked inside Google Search; they need to get those engineers in the same room.
8. More control over public data
Google+ is a more public social network than Facebook, and that is a good thing. The indexes are fully searchable from Google.com. Yet, we'd like a way to control that. You might decide to create an account for your business and post publicly to other users, but would prefer that your posts were not searchable. Privacy is a bit weak overall; the service has a few bugs related to blocking users (the blocking does not work at first) that need to be ironed out.
9. Errant message warning
The ability to post messages to a select few is a welcome feature. We like the interface for posting a message to just a couple of friends, and it works like a direct message in Twitter. You can also post content to select groups. However, it is too easy to send an errant message. For example, if you type a private message and forget to remove the "public: circle, Google+ does not warn you at all. Either private messages need to be separated out or there needs to be an opportunity to verify the people who will see your message are the ones you wanted.
10. More interface options
Surprisingly, Google+ offers no options at all for changing the interface -- you can't change colour schemes, use more than one column for your feed, and even add widgets. This is an early stage, and we're not wishing that Google+ follow in the MySpace footsteps with highly customized pages, but some UI flexibility would help.
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John Brandon has covered gadgets and cars for the past 12 years having published over 12,000 articles and tested nearly 8,000 products. He's nothing if not prolific. Before starting his writing career, he led an Information Design practice at a large consumer electronics retailer in the US. His hobbies include deep sea exploration, complaining about the weather, and engineering a vast multiverse conspiracy.