Why Circles is the Best Google+ Feature

August 29, 2011
Why Circles is the best Google+ feature

When I first heard about Google+, I had the same thought as almost everyone else: “Great, another social media website I’ll never understand or have time to learn anything about.” But now that I’ve had a chance to play with it, I’ve got to say that I’m liking it — especially the Circles feature.

Facebook’s great, but...

When it comes to connecting with people on Facebook, there’s not much granularity: everyone is your “Friend.” While it’s nice to stay in touch, that’s just not how it is in real life. In real life you’ve got friends, family, work acquaintances, business professionals with whom you network, and those weird people from high school that you don’t really talk to anymore, but can’t easily avoid without feeling like a jerk.

Facebook does actually allow you to put your friends into groups, but you have to dig deep into your account’s permission settings in order to prevent certain groups from seeing your status updates, photos, contact information, etc. — and even then it’s not very easy to tell whether or not your filters are working.

In the past people have avoided this issue by creating two separate accounts — one where they accept friend requests from family and close friends, and a second account that is more for networking. But since it’s now against Facebook’s Terms of Use to have more than one account, that option is no longer viable.

Meanwhile, at Google+...

Thankfully, Google+ removes the necessity of having more than one account, as well as the complexity of navigating a morass of permissions settings, with the “circles” feature.

When an individual begins following you on Google+, you are given the option of putting that user into a “circle,” which allows you to customize which parts of your profile and activities that individual can see.

  • There are several default circles (friends, family, work, etc.), but you can create as many custom circles as you want
  • You can assign one person to multiple circles, or have a circle consist of just one person
  • You can configure each circle so that its members can only see certain portions of your actual profile. And unlike on Facebook, your permissions settings are very granular and easily edited right from your profile page — it’s never vague about who can or can’t see which parts of your profile.

The biggest reason circles rock

Whenever you take any action on Google+, be it posting a status or sharing videos, links, or photos, you get to decide which of your circles sees that update. You can share content with several of your circles, all of them, or just one.

This is great for me for several reasons:

  • By viewing just one circle at a time, my news feed stays clean, and I can see everything more easily.
  • I blog several times a week on my personal blog, which is dedicated to reviewing books. While I know that my friends love me, most of them are not quite as enamored of books as I am. It’s nice to be able to pull the people I know who are interested in what I’m writing into a specific circle — then I can share my blog posts with that circle, and not spam the feeds of anyone who doesn’t care about my latest review.
  • As awesome as my co-workers are, I think it’s important to keep a little bit of separation between my work and personal life (as do most people). Google+ lets me do so simply and easily.

As JD recently mentioned, Facebook recently made it easier for you to see how different people (with different permissions settings) see your profile. But as of now, it feels more like a ploy to compete with Google+, not make it easier for people to use Facebook.

The future of Google+

I’m interested to see how Google+ will do, given Facebook’s propensity for making unpopular changes to their platform. As long as Google+ continues to make it easy for me to communicate with my friends, I’ll be its biggest fan.

[Image: Mashable]