June 29th, my Twitter feed was going nuts over news of Google+ and people asking others for invites. My first reaction was, “Who cares! I loathe Google. Wave and Buzz were severe disappointments. My gmail is used for junkmail and notifications for things I don’t care about. There’s yet to be a single Google product to interest or excite me. What is the purpose of Google+ and what use is it going to be to me?”

I walked through the Google+ tutorial and thought, “Meh. I don’t see what the hype is about.” Then I received an unexpected invite, logged in and was immediately hooked.

I’m not going to give a full walk-through of what exactly Google+ is. If you want in-depth detail, then read this very long article on Wired. What I will tell you is what my first impressions are and why I actually really, really like Google+.

First, Google+ is every thing I like about Facebook and doesn’t have any of the things that I hate, which is most of what Facebook has turned into. For years, I’ve been waiting for a good Facebook replacement. The only reason I still use Facebook is because it is the only way to keep in contact with some of my family.

Gone are the annoying adverts on Facebook. Gone is a feed filled with nothing but Facebook game updates that you are constantly having to block from your feed in an attempt to see people’s status updates—you know, the things you really want to know about people. Gone are the annoying suggestions. Being automatically added to a group and other intrusive things are gone. What is left is a stream devoted solely to the things you want to see: What your friends are saying and sharing. I’ve commented that Google+ is Facebook Lite but better.

The thing that has me most excited about Google+ is that I have complete control over how my content is shared. If I want only one person to see a status update, then I can specify that. If I only want one circle to see it, then I can specify that. I can also specify multiple circles, all circles or the entire world by having the update posted to my public profile. For me, this is the best feature! This means that I can open up my Google+ to the entire world and still maintain my privacy; something I can’t do on Facebook.

There are other nifty features such as chat, group collaborations i.e. “hangouts”, “Sparks” which are like Google alerts based on interests that you specify, you can +1 individual updates, you can share them and comment on them, you can even edit your updates and comments after you post them. This last feature also greatly excites me.

Another feature that WordPress users will probably grok the most is the toolbar at the top of Google+. It is very much like the admin bar in WordPress. It is automatically integrated into any Google page, including search, allowing you easy access to all your Google tools.

The only thing currently missing for me is the ability to automatically push my sites’ updates to Google+. Yes, I can use the +1 button on all my posts and add it to the +1 stream in my profile, but those don’t automatically show up in my stream for others to see. They have to visit my profile and click on the +1 tab to see them.

Another thing that I’m half-concerned about are the age restrictions. They are stricter than Facebook. As a parent, I appreciate that a young child cannot create an account which, without the guidance of an adult, can leave their personal and private information open to the entire world to view and leave them vulnerable to online predators. But the fact my near 16-year-old son will have to create a new gmail account and lie about his age in order to use Google+ is a little silly. I feel he is old enough to be able to use Google+.

I’m also worried that Google will mess-up the thing I really love about Google+: My right to privacy and the ability to choose what I share and with whom. Google has a lousy track record when it comes to privacy. So, we’ll have to wait and see. You can read the Googe+ privacy policy here.

It is going to take me awhile to efficiently organise all of my circles so that I can best share the content I want to share and with whom I want to share it. But it will be well worth it.

There are obviously some bugs as this is a new service and still in beta. Invites have been closed, but my friend, Eli Jones (@JuicyJones), has shared a work-around. However, Google+ is apparently at capacity and those who’ve received invites today have to wait a little bit before they can activate their accounts. That being said, if you want an invite, let me know and I’ll happily add you. I’ll happily add anyone.

Google, please don’t mess this up by turning it into another Facebook. What you’ve started with is awesome. Just work out the bugs—such as the crashes with “hangout”—add the ability to push posts for blogs and websites, and I’ll be extremely happy. Google, if you keep up the good work, I’ll never have to login to Facebook again and that is what I’ve been asking for, for years.

One last note, some have tried to compare Google+ to Twitter. For me, that is like comparing apples and oranges. Just like Facebook and Twitter have specific uses and functions for me, so will Google+ and Twitter. Maybe having the ability to push tweets to Google+ would be nice, but considering Google has Buzz—which I don’t use and never will—I don’t see that happening.

If you already have a Google+ account and want to add me, my gmail is jsherred at gmail dot com.

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