The thrust of many Google+ conversations is, understandably, about how it compares as a service to Twitter and Facebook. This also comprises many of the reviews that have been posted so far. The points generally conclude that it’s not as good at one use case or another. I think that the real difference is that the services are optimized for different ways of sharing. Each taking from the others in subtle ways but still basically designed for different tasks.
I believe that Google+ is optimized for communicating with small groups of 5 to 15 people. It is not designed to easily communicate with the “Public”. Many of the complaints about the way the service works relate to it not working as well for these general public conversations as Twitter does. This is because Twitter is optimized for these conversations. It easily allows a many to many conversation but completely ignores the Few to Few conversations. These are the exact conversations that G+ is setup for.
When looking at 5-15 people Circles many of the functions that people are complaining about become great benefits. Take, for example, the “post move to the top when commented on” ordering of your Stream. This feature fails when trying to follow large public figures who have many comments from their other followers. But for a conversation happening with a circle of 8 friends, it helps to keep you engaged as everyone adds their comments.
The private nature of the Circle itself also lends to this conversation. Facebook groups are public lists that allow conversations among a diverse and unconnected group with a similar interest. Where Circles provide a context group within your own definition. For example, I may have a “tennis” group of friend, of which Brian is a member. He may also have a “tennis” circle, with people that he relates to “tennis” which I happen to be a member of. Yet when I share with my tennis circle, the members of his tennis circle don’t see it unless he chooses to re-share it with them. This is not a flaw but is by design, this is the kind of sharing I wan’t and wasn’t able to easily get anywhere else.
The reason, I believe that many of the people who are on G+ now have these complaints is that they are media and technology people who interact with their “public” on social networks and not just with their Circles of Friends. I only hope that user’s requests don’t try to turn G+ into Facebook or Twitter by asking to remove or change the things that make it different. I hope it’s allowed to grow into it’s own service, with it’s own optimizations and social norms.