Sunday, July 10, 2011

Google+ and the killer app

Recently I was able to experience the newest addition to the Google family, Google+.

The general feel of the application is a stripped down version of Facebook. There are no farmvilles, no pokes and you don't see anyone's birthday. It's basically a stream (where you see what everyone's doing) plus one notable killer app - a hangout.

A killer app is the holy grail of software. It's the carrot that gets the donkey moving, it's the reaso

n to use an application. A killer app gives software value and lets an application, or in this case, a site build on it and grow.

A hangout, Google+’s killer app, is an interesting way to video chat. It allows the user that is speaking to take focus on the main video screen and show all the other participants in smaller screens below.

The hangout solves many of the video chat interaction problems that I

experienced within my studies of distance education. It allows a single person to take focus with the ability to view all others body (or at least face) language providing visual cues to let others speak. It also has all the microphones live unless the participant (or other viewers) mute them. It provides an elegant way to mute individual people and the software solves the feedback issues that have accompanied other application reviewed.

In short, when multiple mics were on, you would hear feedback of you speaking from other mics and produced many unwanted sounds. With this problem solved it closely equates to a bunch of people all speaking in the same room.

While the implementation was not flawless (I needed to restart multiple times during my chats) it did make for a very interactive session.

The main detraction of the hangout however is lack of friends.

When I was testing out this function I joined a hangout of a young lady I met through twitter. Becky is a social media maven, and as such has 500+ friends on facebook and has invited at least as many on Google+, making for an very interactive experience, where acquaintances, such as myself, were stopping by to say hi. At some points we had 6 people, who’s only connection was Becky and we all proceeded to chat away.

Contrast this with my 15 friends and you can see how empty a space can be for this feature.

I’m sure when developing this function it worked flawlessly, because this problem probably didn’t surface, and it would be hard to classify this as a 'development issue'. But for now, the killer app is a bit of a goose egg without lots of friends.

It would be great to have a ‘local tavern’ type of hangout, possibly by location or interest area to properly utilize this feature, but in the meantime you may want to find Becky and ask to be her friend. You can find her as one of my friends at


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