A few much-requested changes to Google+'s business pages and circle streams are on their way
Google announced this morning a few improvements it will be making to Google+ before the end of the year, including the much-requested multiple managers for business pages accounts. That means, for example, both Alexis and I will be able to post to the Atlantic Tech's Google+ page). Google is also granting the ability to control which of your circles appear in the main stream when you log in, explained in this video:
They describe this feature as "adjusting the volumes" of your different circles -- a useful and smart metaphor: Google+ is the sound equalizer, and you can find the balance of different people in your life that works for you. For me, for example, I have an "acquaintances" circle. I like being connected with these people on Google+, but I will turn their volume way down, as I don't want to see every update from then. In contrast, I'll keep the volume of my close friends' circle and family circle way up.
Both of this change and the multiple page-managers tweak were requested by Google+ users; they are features that it seems, intuitively, Google+ should have, and it was surprising that they weren't available from the start. When Google+ first rolled out and I created my circles, I remember clicking around saying to myself, "Now, how do I make only my Friends circle appear on my homepage?" Same was true when I set up the Atlantic Tech's Google+ page ("Now I'll just add Alexis and be done"). Both times, I was surprised that Google+ had rolled out without these abilities; the result was a site that felt half-baked, rushed to market. When these updates roll out, they'll make Google+ have the functionality many expected from the get-go.
But will they help Google+ get more regular users?
The problem that continues to plague Google+ is how to get interesting, crowd-sourced content to populate it. That's in part because the central Google+ philosophy has been to control sharing, where as the central Facebook philosophy has been to push sharing to ever-greater heights. Google+ is trying to capitalize on people's discomfort with Facebook, but the effect has been that the Google site is just less interesting to visit.
That's where the final changes Google announced today come in. These changes aren't ones that people have requested, they're not roll-outs of missing features. Rather, the final piece of Google+ improvements are just that -- improvements -- to its photo sharing tool. The changes look nice -- better commenting, easy tagging, attractive big-size layouts -- and the special attention to the photo tool is an indication that Google sees photo-sharing as one of the areas in which it has a leg-up on Facebook.
This makes sense. Google+ is a great interface for photo sharing -- you can share your pictures with exactly whom you want, organized nicely, uploaded easily from your phone, and they additionally look great on the site. Of everything that goes onto Facebook, photos might top the list of things people like to keep mostly private. Google+ can take advantage of that uneasiness, and improving its photo tools is one of the best ways to do so. Google+ may not be the best place for reading articles (it is still no Google Reader) or staying up-to-date on your friends' lives, but as a photo-sharing site, it's got a lot to recommend it.