Readers of “The Powerbase” with Google+ accounts may have noticed a pretty big change to their Stream selection recently. Google has decided to silently remove the Incoming stream without letting anyone know, and there has already been something of a backlash within the growing Google+ community.
The Case for Incoming
The Incoming Stream was a place where messages that were shared with you from people who weren’t in your Circles could be viewed. Before the removal of Incoming, you never had to worry about acknowledging users who Circled you because you could always just go into Incoming to see their posts and decide if they were somebody you wanted to follow back. This was a big difference between Google+ and Facebook, since the act of Circling something or someone was not necessarily a two way street, somebody could Circle you and you didn’t need to Circle them back to see their content.
By removing the Incoming Stream, Google+ has now become a lot more like Facebook. If a person adds you, the only realistic way of seeing their content is to Circle them yourself. This completely changes the dynamic of Google+ and forces the user to either Circle a person immediately or lose track of them and never see their content.
A Personal Example
On my own Google+ account, I only Circle the people I know in real life (or at least communicate with on a regular basis online), so my Circles are limited to about 40 or so. But as people have mentioned me or put me into Shared Circles, I’ve amassed about 700 followers so far. If you asked me yesterday, I would have said I had absolutely no intention of Circling any of them. This is not to say I wasn’t interested in them or their content, I simply didn’t want to maintain a Circle full of strangers. But I always had the option of using the Incoming stream to drop in on these users and see what was on their mind. Presumably, these people added me to their Circles because they wanted me to engage with them, and the Incoming stream was how I did that. With Incoming gone, these people will likely never hear from me again.
Now, call me crazy, but I thought the whole point of Google+ was to give us more options on how we want to manage our social networks and drive up engagement. With this single change, Google has not only forced my hand in terms of who I want to have in my Circles, but deprived my Followers from my engagement with them. This seems completely counter the point of Google+, and changes how I use the service completely.
The Community Speaks
If you feel the same way about the removal of Incoming as I do (and judging by my searches for the topic within Google+, a lot of people do), then don’t take it silently. Use the “Send Feedback” link that Google has provided on the bottom right of every Google+ page or by clicking on the gear icon at the top left, and let them know. I urge anyone who isn’t happy with this change to let their voice be heard and tell Google you don’t like having options taken away from you. A lot of Google+ users migrated over from Facebook because that service notoriously ignored the wishes and best interests of it’s userbase: does Google+ want to go down the same route?