I haven’t spent a lot of time with Google’s new social networking project, Google +, but little by little, it’s drawing me back. That’s not because of the dozen or so people I’m following, or because of the promising 10-way video chat, or even because of the new approach to privacy that makes you sort contacts into groups.
No, my attraction to Google+ lies mostly in the fact that it won’t go away. Every time I run a Google search or check my Gmail, Google+ lurks in the top right corner of the screen, alerting me to new activity and letting me post status updates. The bare essentials of Google+ are embedded in every service that Google offers.
This might sound a little odd, but I like the fact that Google+ bothers me.
To see what I’m talking about, check out this screenshot from a Google search page, particularly the top-right corner:
Google+ status updates can be posted from any Google service, with lots of control options. You can add photos, videos, links and locations; decide which social circle sees the update; and e-mail people who aren’t using the service. And you can do all of this without ever leaving the search results page, because everything’s handled through pop-up boxes.
But that’s not all. Google services also use a bold shade of red to issue Google+ notifications:
Clicking the button shows a drop-down list of recent notifications, and from there, you can see all the activity around these recent posts — all without ever leaving the page you’re on.
You might argue that browser extensions can provide similar functionality for Facebook and Twitter, but this is different simply because it doesn’t add anything permanent to the browser. I needn’t sacrifice any space in Chrome’s toolbar to stay in touch with Google+, and when I’m using services that aren’t Google-related, Google+ is nowhere to be seen. That makes me more likely to notice when notifications do appear.
Of course, most of Google+ exists on its main website, but the core service of posting updates and seeing what people say about them is available any time I check my e-mail or search the web. That’s going to keep me paying attention whether I like it or not. For a service that will eventually need active users more than anything else, that’s huge.