I’ve played with Google+ a fair bit now, and I’m finding that the more I get to know it, the less I’m sure exactly what it is. I have read so much hype from the Google fans, and it’s become pretty clear to me, although they’ll disagree, that most of them don’t seem to know what it is either. One piece declared Facebook dead based on a photo sharing comparison. That just told me that the author has absolutely no idea what Facebook and Google+ are and do. Many others have been basing opinions on the engagement they get through Google+. Lots more comments and followers on Google than on Facebook. Which tells me that they don’t understand the old maxim about quality versus quantity. Most people will value a comment from mum more than 100 from strangers. I don’t think Google+ is a Facebook killer. I’m far from convinced it is even a Facebook rival.
So what is Google+? If I had to put a label on it, I’d call it a revolutionary forum or bulletin board replacement. With bells and whistles. It’s not a place where there’s mass of traffic between real life friends and family going on. Instead, extended communities of people seem to be gathering around topics and subjects. The question is, will that be enough for Google to continue supporting it? If it doesn’t really rival Facebook, which is what they set out to do, will they let it go the way of Wave, Buzz and other projects? Time will tell. I will say that whilst it’s sparse on features in some departments, it’s extraordinarily slick and useful in other areas.
There’s one part of Google+ that has really interested me though, and that is in photosharing. It feeds from Picasaweb albums, but presents the shots in a far more aesthetic manner. I like it enough that I decided to shell out $20 on a Google Storage upgrade (80gb) to store all my photos on. I have a catalogue of about 25gb of photos so that’s plenty of space. I’m half way through downloading all my photos off Flickr and uploading them to Picasa/Google+. you can see my growing collection here.
There’s a few reasons I decided to take the plunge. Firstly, I like the idea of having a double back up of my photos. Duplicating my albums on Flickr and Picasa/Google+ gives me more peace of mind. I like the Picasa software for managing my photos. Why doesn’t Flickr have a decent bit of software for managing photos? I love the geo-tagging with Google Earth – Flickr’s geo-tagging with Yahoo Maps sucks big time. I love the fact that Google has a Data Liberation button, which means I can download all my content quickly and easily. Why doesn’t Flickr have that? I had to spend two hours sifting through a whole bunch of dead apps, faulty apps and pricey apps before I found one that would do the job. The other option available to me was to Pay a Flickr partner, Qoop, to send me my photos at $20 per disc. Why would I want to pay $100 to get my photos days after I want them, on a medium I don’t want them on?
Flickr still has a whole bunch of valuable features that it’s rivals don’t have however. I like being able to arrange my sets as I want them. My collections too. Flickr is much nicer to look at than Picasa. The stats are nicer. It’s better to navigate through communities, groups and But it’s not the leading light in the world of online photography. It’s not stagnant, but neither is it innovative, seemingly preferring to play catch up every now and then. Flickr really needs some reinvigorating and a fresh team at the top. It needs resources. I’ve long lost faith in Yahoo to provide any of that. They won’t. Yahoo seems to have a digital version of Alzheimers, and a pretty advanced case of it.
I think the only realistic hope for Flickr long term is if Microsoft takes it over. I’m a little surprised they haven’t already. It would be a great move for all three parties. Microsoft gets the cool online flagship it needs for it’s increasingly impressive online suite of products. Flickr gets a new life. And Yahoo might actually get some money from the deal, rather than doing what they usually do – hold off till it’s too late and the product is worthless and virtually unsaleable. Microsoft Flickr could be a great product. For now I’m going to hedge my bets and double my digital security and upload all my photos to Flickr and Picasa.