It may only be a week old, but Google+ has certainly stirred up the excitement of the digerati. Even at this early stage, it’s clear that Google has something with real potential here. However, there are lots of features it’s still lacking and plenty of directions the service could be taken in.
Here, we take a look at some of the most important ones and some more imaginative examples too. Thanks to everyone who participated in this Plus thread which helped inspire the list. So, in no particular order…
A new era of tech events has begun
We’re back in New York this November for the 4th edition of our growth-focused technology event.
Given that Google has its roots firmly in search, the fact that there’s no way to search Google+ posts is odd. The existing user search box could be expanded to search posts too, with the ability to see results from each of your individual Circles, as well as a stream of public results from the whole of Plus.
Why not go further? Google’s recently introduced an image recognition-based search tool that could be built in as an advanced option – you could even find similar photos to ones you’ve uploaded yourself – perfect for finding others who have been to the same place you took yours.
2. Improved sharing
At present, sharing a link on Google+ is limited to pasting in the URL and adding a note. Earlier today we covered a Chrome extension that allows sharing to Plus without having to be on the site itself, but in future, we’d like to see an official bookmarklet that can instantly share the current website you’re visiting with a click.
Additionally, why not integrate with Google Reader so that anything you share there is instantly pushed to Plus? Google is pushing Plus’ own automated content finder, Sparks, but there’s still something to be said for self-assembled lists of RSS feeds.
3. Shared Circles
While Google’s Circles have made organising your contacts into different categories incredibly easy, we still enjoy the shared experience of being in a group. Google+ bears a strong resemblance to FriendFeed, and one of that service’s best features has always been the ability to join, and share content with, everyone else in a themed group. So, Apple fans could share Apple discussions and content with each other and members of a church knitting group could easily share patterns without having to each create an identical circle of the same members manually.
Google+ shouldn’t be looking to completely emulate FriendFeed, but shared groups make a lot of sense. Florian Rohrweck, who has made a name for himself among tech bloggers for scouring Google’s code for clues to future features, has already spotted reference to something called ‘Public Circles’, so this may be on the way.
4. Document collaboration
With the news that Google is preparing to allow Google Apps users to access Plus, it’s only a small leap to consider more business-focused features added in the future. Work-focused Hangouts (multi-person video chats) that incorporate document collaboration would be an ideal way of quickly and efficiently working together. Google Docs integration would obviously be a big part of this, and – hey – why not throw in some of the Google Wave real-time technology too?
5. Instant translation
Google has some powerful translation tech at its disposal. It would be great to see this used to instantly translate foreign language posts on Google+ into your native tongue, helping make the world just that little bit smaller and Plus that little bit more useful.
6. Integration with Twitter and Facebook
This is a contentious one. Some people would love the idea of either feeding tweets or Facebook statuses into Google+ OR using Google+ as the hub of their online social life, posting out to Twitter and Facebook. Other people, though, would see this as ‘pollution’. After all, part of the problem with Google Buzz was that it was full of people sharing their Twitter streams and not actively participating. I recently discovered that my father had been ‘liking’ my Buzz posts for months without me noticing as I never went there – I was just feeding content in.
It would have to be done carefully, but some way of connecting the services so that Plus didn’t feel so disconnected would no doubt be appreciated by many users.
7. A log of your +1 activity
One of the strange things about Google+ is that you can’t see a list of all the things you’ve “+1ed” on the site. From your profile, you can see what you’ve +1ed around the Web using +1 buttons on other sites and the +1 facility in Google search, but your +1s within Plus itself disappear into the ether. If they were accessible, we’d be able to use +1 as a ‘bookmarking’ facility for the service – and you can bet that Google is logging all this information anyway, as it looks to build up a picture of our tastes to improve its search intelligence and advertising accuracy.
8. ‘Save as draft’
While most people are using Google+ to simply post short pieces of text, others – such as Jeff Jarvis – are posting full-length blog posts in there. This diversity should be encouraged as it sets Plus apart from Twitter as a full-on discussion platform. However, typing a long thought piece and then losing it all because your browser crashes would be a nightmare averted by a ‘Save as draft’ function.
9. Audio support
Audio is becoming a big deal on the Web – just look at the growth of services like SoundCloud and Turntable.fm for examples of that. Being able to share audio clips directly into Plus would tap into this trend and give users another way of expressing themselves. This could either be support for SoundCloud embeds, or even direct recording of audio into Plus using a microphone.
10. Better location exploration
Google+ already has a location-based element. You can geotag posts and the Android app lets you see what people are talking about nearby. How about a full-on map view in the browser that lets you explore by geography?
Want to see what people are ‘Plussing’ about in Cairo? Tokyo? Helsinki? Just scroll around the map and take a look. In fact, it could be integrated into our very first entry in this list, search. Do people in London post more about bacon than New York? Where is talk about your favourite band the most popular? This feature would help us make sense of the world that is Google+.
Any feature ideas we’ve missed? Leave a comment and let us know.