Archive for the ‘Google’ Category

Google Plus

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

The idea of Google releasing a social network to compete with Facebook has been floating around for a while, but they hit us by surprise with the soft launch of Google Plus. This was also used to facilitate a redesign of other Google products – namely Gmail, Google Search, and the service-wide top bar.

Let’s circle back around later

When first setting up your account, you’re encouraged to set up “circles”: groups of people that you can use to control who sees what. A really cool UI powers the dragging and dropping of people into different circles…it feels familiar, but I can’t quite place it. You can add people to your circles and they can add you to their circles, but the person on the receiving end can’t see which circle they’ve been added to. It took me a while to fully grasp the level of mutualism; in this sense, it’s a lot more like Twitter than Facebook. It’s not zero sum – adding someone to a circle doesn’t require them to do the same with you.

Once circles are set up, entering profile information is pretty straightforward. Integration with your existing Google Profile is nice, and from here on out it’s essentially what would be expected of a standard social network.

Similarity to Facebook

It’s tough to describe functionality without using the word “Facebook”. The core of the app, especially the news feed, is very reminiscent of Facebook, but there are a few differences. With Facebook, segmentation of your friends is a hard-to-find afterthought, but in Plus, it’s one of the first things you do. Collaborative video chats (“Hangouts”) are something that Zuckerberg has yet to fully implement, but that’ll be changing soon, likely as a response to Plus. The user interface, although a little cleaned up, mimics Facebook in many ways, from the layout of a sidebar on the left to the indented format of comments. It almost reminds me of the Microsoft Store to Apple Store comparison.

A lot of things are awesome

Based on search queries and the potential for data collection with +1′ing, Google can have a much better idea of who someone is than Facebook does, and it’d be really cool to see some integration of that into how you’re connected to people. The fact that the Google header follows you around in Gmail, search, maps, etc. is also helpful.

But why could this be better?

Google does have a few advantages in terms of a userbase and ties with existing products, and is definitely better positioned to have a social network. But the timing’s way off. They’re putting up a brand-new silo right next to Facebook, and I’m not sure the segmentation will be a good thing. Photos are especially an issue – the inconvenience could be huge to have some photos on Facebook, some photos on Flickr, and now some photos on Plus.

And although it’s a small problem that’ll likely be taken care of in the future, there’s a significant delay between when you get a notification in Plus and when the email is sent. Not a huge deal, but it does throw you off when getting an email that’s notifying you of something that happened a few hours ago.

The bottom line

It’s a cool webapp. But when it comes down to the sandpaper, they’re not solving a real problem or filling a real need – they’re just trying to keep up with everyone else.

Google TV

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Chrome on Google TV

The concept of Google TV‘s been around for a while, but has recently taken a hard form in the Logitech Revue and Sony Internet TV series. I got a chance to play around with an installation today at the Sony Style store and, despite what I consider to be an above-average user interface, still don’t see the appeal.

I’m an HTPC man; I live and breathe my hackintoshed machine running Boxee. When connecting a computer to a TV, you free yourself from limitations. Any software can be installed, upgrades can be made, and you could even dual-boot if desired. The price difference between Google TV hardware compared to a $699 Mac Mini (or much less expensive self-built machine) doesn’t seem large enough. That’s the one thing that Apple got right about the new Apple TV; $99 is a wide enough gap from any computer.

However, I often have to take a step back from my power user-esque preferences and realize that the average consumer is actually paying for limitation. They see it as convenience, but it’s really the trading of control for simplicity.

Google TV isn’t for me. But for people who want to be ahead of the curve while still keeping it simple, go for it.

Will you be getting a Google TV device? Thoughts?

#googlefail: Are We Too Dependent?

Thursday, May 14th, 2009
Last week, the interwebs stood still as Google suffered significant outages. Details weren’t extremely revealing; a blog post from Google simply claims that:

An error in one of our systems caused us to direct some of our web traffic through Asia, which created a traffic jam. As a result, about 14% of our users experienced slow services or even interruptions.

Others believe that AT&T may be to blame (I was unable to get through on my iPhone’s 3G connection). AT&T, however, disagrees:

After reports on #googlefail being related to our network, we looked & have not identified any problems that could have caused the outage

Putting blame aside, the amount of infrastructure that Google supports is huge; from search functions to Google Apps, the Mountain View giant is literally everywhere. I’ll perform countless Google searches on a daily basis, check feeds in Google Reader, host my email on Google Apps, get directions via Google Maps – the list goes on. I’d go as far to say that at least 50 percent of my day revolves around Google.

I can't imagine my day without Google.

I can't imagine my day without Google.

Google openly states that their ultimate goal is to create an index of all the world’s content. But there’s an extent of unhealthy dependency that goes along with that. Even with a brief outage, everything freezes in motion. Are our lives tied too closely to Google? There are other ways to obtain information and services, such as YahooLive Search, and the newly released Wolfram|Alpha. Unfortunately, Yahoo and Live Search don’t feel as efficient as Google, and Wolfram|Alpha is intended for an entirely different use.

But even if we are too reliant, I don’t see an immediate way around it. Indexing the world is a tough job, but somebody has to do it. I’m a huge centralization buff, and there’s no better definition of that than Google.

One of Google's recently unveiled servers.

One of Google's recently unveiled servers.

I’m not about to complain to the point of extremity. Most of the time, Google’s stability is exceptional. It’s also safe to say that they have a pretty firm hold on their servers over at the Googleplex – I’m more than willing to trade a few minutes of downtime for the existence of the awesome web giant.