Facebook has superior 'Circles'
After my some intial use of Google+, I was thinking of more about the headline Circles feature. An interesting thing I've noticed while reading a number of reactions is that people had a number of preconceived notions of what Circles would mean and are slowly discovering that they are not as useful as claimed to be. And more people are beginning to realize that the granular sharing options that Circles represent were there in Facebook all along. They are called Friend Lists, and unfortunately Facebook doesn't make this easy to find or use.
As I was writing this post, I found one by Sam Pullara also wrote a great post contrasting the Facebook Friend Lists feature with Circles.
Ok, so now we can say Facebook has features equivalent to Circles. But why do I say that they have superior Circles? Because it has the excellently done Groups feature, which together with Friend Lists, cover more aspects of social sharing.
Circle's primary use case is one person trying to share to the appropriate person. Group's primary use case is multiple people sharing with each other. Yes, that may have been a blinding flash of the obvious that just flitted by, but it is something that I was confused about when I first started using the feature. The following are a couple of things I love about Facebook Groups
- Simple to reason about : Everyone in the group knows who else is there, so there are no confusions about the potential audience of your comments. In Circles, it's harder to understand this.
- Posts stay in the group: Unless your group-mates are really determined, it is not easy to share group posts outside. In Google+, you are force to think, "Do I want this post to be restricted or not?"
- Simple UI : I really don't know why Facebook comes under fire for their UI in creating groups and lists. Especially with regard to Friend Lists - while it does not have fancy animations, I feel it is really efficient and allows you to deal easily with bigger friend lists. In fact, my intuition is that a core UX person (not marketing driven) would really take issue with the current design of the Circles editor, with its poor use of vertical space.
My initial euphoria for Google+ is waning, as I realise that Facebook already gives you better ways to share with your social circle. With a few changes to highlight these features, at this point Facebook can easily keep Google in check.
[Edit- fixed a tautology! Thanks Neil!]