Tuesday, November 17, 2015

SIGH

If you're just totally uninspired by a change, a sigh really can be a four letter word.

Theres a new version of Google+ on the web.

Pardon me while I yawn.

It isn't bad. It is nice and Material-y like all the new Google webapps.

But there is nothing stand-out about it. The familiar stream is still there. Communities and Collections are there. Your profile is there, more or less. Even circle streams are there, if you find the setting to turn them on. Superficially, it feels a lot like the Google+ we've known for years. If someone comes in who hasn't seen Google+ before, they'll probably more or less like the look. But these changes don't bring anything that would encourage people to visit Google+.

There are a couple of new features, to be certain. Posting and sharing are revamped, and follow the recent trend of allowing shares to services outside Google+. Many parts of it feel faster, although lots of it feels like it requires many many more clicks.

But many more features are now missing. Search is weaker than before, which is quite a trick. Volume controls for circles are gone. Moving a post to a collection is MIA and all the controls on a post are grossly simplified. Multi-column layouts are changed to a configuration and multi-column posts no longer exist. The Photo experience is... who knows, to be honest, but it isn't what it used to be with comments and +1s unavailable in lightbox mode. Events no longer exist. Different screens have different styles of presentation, and despite the Material design, there is no consistent design story, and it feels confusing and uncomfortable on larger screen devices that have mice or touch-pads.

I'm sure there have been changes under the hood that improve things, and hopefully we will reap benefits from these changes in the near future, but overall, this upgrade is a big "so what". This is not what +Bradley Horowitz promised us almost four months ago when he said that we were getting "a more focused, more useful, more engaging Google+". There is no focus on "collections and communities" as they claim. This is jumping back nearly four years, applying a fresh coat of paint, and trapping a few bugs on the wall while you're painting.

This is, apparently, launching in Beta today. The Beta is an important sign - first, that Google acknowledges that there is more work to do on this new site and you will have a way to back out to do things you can't do on the new site. But second is a signal to everyone that they are continuing to work on the future of Google+.

In order to move forward, Google+ needs to clearly present what that future is going to be. It needs to show us the vision that, hopefully, it actually has. That vision should be one that actually addresses the needs of its users - all the users. Finally, that vision needs to have components that are forward thinking and inspiring - social systems have evolved over the past 4 years... Google+ needs to at least catch up.

So great... we have a new look for Google+.
When do we actually get a new Google+?
Wake me up when we do.
Then (maybe) we can ride!