What’s to like about Google’s +1?

You’ve heard of ‘Check-ins,’ ‘Likes,’ and ‘Re-Tweets’ now Google wants us to embrace their new social recommendation tool the ‘+1.’

Now, aside from the silly name (“I plus-oned that website” sounds down-right daft), I have a few issues with Google’s answer to the Facebook ‘Like’ button.

Currently +1 requires you to have a public Google profile, (you can try out +1 by activating the service on Google’s search experiments page), so only once you’re up and running will you see a +1 button next to every search result.  Essentially, if you like a result, click +1 and you’re done.  All of your recommendations will show up under your public profile so you can share with everyone in your Google Social Circle (that’s your Google Talk buddies, your Gmail contacts and anyone else you’ve linked with your Google profile) what you think is worth looking at.

However, here the current version of Google +1 comes a bit unstuck…

How can you know you want to recommend a page without visiting it in the first place?  Once you’ve followed a Google listing, you’re directed away from Google (and subsequently away from the +1 tool).  This means that at the moment Google is relying on users remembering to backtrack and retrospectively recommend the page…

Apparently there are plans to eventually allow web developers to embed the +1 button on their own pages, but with no date for this set it seems like, for the moment at least, Google are working with a bit of a clunky system which isn’t going to make it very popular amongst early adopters.

Secondly, it’s simply not clear as to who is actually in your Google Social Circle… unlike Twitter, Facebook etc there is simple list of friends that you’re linked to – and, in a set-up similar to that of LinkedIn, you are linked to not just your direct contacts, but also the people who are linked to them… meaning that your Social Circle could be huge.  So you never really know who you’re recommending things to!

At the moment Google +1 simply has a long way to go before it rivals the Facebook “Like” button, currently it seems to be positioned in a no-mans land – projecting recommendations willy-nilly across the internet, but not fully embracing the impulsive “I like that!” sharing culture that seems to be shaping the way we engage with the internet.  Google +1 either needs to be streamlined, or to expand (I can’t decide which)… oh, and it also needs a new name.

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