Yesterday, Google introduced the Google+ social network. As we noted at the time, Google+ is basically a more layered version of Facebook that revolves around features called "Circles" and "Sparks" – the former lets you better order your friend groups, and the latter lets you better order what content you recommend to your pals. Sounds pretty good on paper. So how does Google+ stack up with its most prominent competitor?
Well, judging by the early hands-on reviews, Google+ still has work to do before it's ready to steal users away from Facebook. Among the most negative reviews – two out of five stars – comes from the Guardian's Charles Arthur, who pans the photo uploading functionality, grumbles about the apparent chaos of the Circles feature, and frets over the generally overexercised interface.
"Being social," Arthur writes, "isn't just about involving lots of people in things. It's also about getting out of the way. The irony is that Google's biggest product, its search page, is a classic of simple design. But everything else it does becomes too complicated. Google+ might work better if it tried to do less, and then built it up." And Arthur is far from alone.
Over at Business Insider, Steve Kovach says just about everything on Google+ has been recycled from Facebook. "Everyone's already on Facebook, and most don't use Gmail," Kovach writes. "A social network is no good unless your friends are on it too. As my colleague Dan Frommer put it: '[Google+ is] like Facebook with no people.' Google+ even looks like Facebook, except with a whiter background. Frankly, it's embarrassing for Google."
Others aren't quite so critical. PC World, for instance, likes Google+ a whole lot. "With all those great (free) services and now a tightly-integrated social networking platform under one roof, who needs Facebook?" write the PC World team. "Had Google launched this strategy three years ago that may have been a good question. But the burning question now is whether or not Google is too late to the 'social Web' to ever catch up."
And here's an answer, of a kind: Google could conceivably catch up to Facebook, and even surpass that social network, provided users are OK with learning the ropes of a new platform.
Luckily, writes MG Siegler of TechCrunch, learning Google+ isn't hard at all. "Overall, it took me about 15 minutes to get fairly comfortable with all the major elements of the Google+ system," Siegler writes. "That’s good, especially given how much you can do. At first, it seemed a bit overwhelming, but the concepts are actually pretty easy to learn once you experiment and understand how things work.
Over to you. What do you think of Google+? Drop us a line – we're listening.