Google+ Is Google's Social Network With Web Recommendations, Video Chat, Mobile Group Messaging

We've been hearing rumours about an upcoming Google-based social network for months, and Google has finally delivered. Its social project works similarly to other popular networks, but with innovative new additions like group video chatting, group messaging, and a much easier to use interface.

Google+, on the surface, doesn't look all that different from Facebook or Twitter. You have a profile that's all about you, you can share thoughts, links and photos with all your friends, and view a feed of the things your friends have shared. However, it adds some pretty cool new features that actually make it a compelling service. Here's what it has to offer.

Circles: Google Circles is the centre of Google+. It's similar to Facebook and Twitter lists, except it's actually easy to use: Google+ grabs your friends from your Gmail contacts, and you can drag and drop them into groups of people based on your relationships, interests, or whatever you want. The goal is to get rid of all the crap in your feed that you don't want to see. Got a group of techie friends? You can share all your Apple news or software tricks with them and only them. Got a humorous but raunchy video you'd rather not share with your mum? Share it with just your friends that appreciate off-colour humour. Of course, it still relies on you actually creating those lists, but it's easier to do than on other networks, meaning that, in theory, you have a better chance of actually using the feature.

Sparks: Sparks is like a recommendation engine, Instapaper, and social network all rolled into one. You tell Sparks your interests and it'll grab recent, interesting content on that subject — whether it be videos, books, blog posts, or pretty much anything else Google can search. You can then save these items for later and share them with your friends. It's populated by how often things are being shared and through Google's +1 buttons, so it has the potential to be pretty cool — if people use it.

Hangouts: This is a really cool feature that other social networks (and even IM services) seem to be severely lacking: a "come video chat with me, I'm just hanging out" button. Right now, most people seem to schedule video chats ahead of time and with purpose — most people don't just video chat out of the blue. In Google+, you can just hit the hangout button and all your friends will see that you're available and not busy, open to video chatting. They can then "join" your hangout and video chat with you and other people. Again, it requires people actually use the service, but it's better than Skype or iChat as-is, where people only see that you're online, but there's no open invitation to come on in and video chat.

Huddle: Group texting is nothing new, but with BBM on BlackBerry, iMessages on iOS, and Android supposedly creating their own, there's very little that's cross-platform. Huddle is Google's answer, which will be available on more platforms and be a bit more at the forefront than, say, something like Facebook messages, which seems buried in a sea of other features. With Huddle, you send messages to all the members of one of your circles, perfect for planning a quick hangout without the hassle of mass text messages.

Google+ is going to have a desktop app that you can access from the top bar on every Google page, but it will also be available on both Android and iOS. Just like other social networks, this means you have access to your messages and your feed wherever you go, you can attach location to your posts, and instantly upload photos and videos to your profile.

Is Google+ a Facebook killer? Probably not. Will people use it? It's very possible — Google has already permeated itself into every corner of our online existence, and with Google+ being in the toolbar of every Google page you use (plus a few compelling features), it could very well become something you actually use. The whole thing's still a bit of a work in progress, so we'll just have to see how it plays out. It's invite-only for now, so head to the Google+ home page and request one for yourself to try it out.

The Google+ Project [via Official Google Blog]


Comments

    Yeah,.. I'd have to shave and put on a decent shirt if I got into this... :p

    Once again, not for Apps users out of the box. Then again, it is still in beta, so I guess it's not really supposed to be out of the box yet.

    if they've already got a rather nice and fairly popular text/voice/video chat service with google talk, presumably 'huddle' and 'hangouts' will be directly integrated? They don't have anything to gain by keeping them separate, but the whole Google Buzz backlash might have scared them off.

    Do i need an invite to join the website?

    I doubt I'll ever login to Facebook again once this is running. I'll be able to use social features with people I actually talk to (unlike Facebook where I've accepted too many friend requests from people I haven't spoken to in years).

    Circles looks great. I don't think Sparks will replace Feedly for me.

    This is Google's most attractive interface too.

    Today's XKCD was relevant and funny, but:

    Is it really like Facebook? Wikipedia says it's a "layer over existing Google services, such as Google profiles" which I don't really like. For GP to gain traction, it needs to be a separate site with loose tie-ins to the rest of the Google products (like GMail and such). Google Wave was getting there slowly before they killed it.

    And Apps. Where is FarmMafiaFindYourSecretCrushVille? You can't expect to gain traction without a pulling point. Chat? Yeah, Facebook does it, albeit not with video. Sparks? Facebook Pages. Huddle? Event pages.

    Yes, GP will make it easier to set these up, but only if you're signed up in the first place.

    My advice: Be a Facebook killer. Do what it takes to convert people. Offer a quick Facebook-connect enabled service to pull over your existing contacts, photos, videos and posts. Build a sweet apps platform. Make security and account settings easier to find and change.

    This could be a chance to win over lots of people. Don't let it become a Google Buzz or simple overlay.

      That wouldn't work though because facebook has always had problems with google. Facebook has prevented google from simply transferring over account data so google will have to focus on other techniques to attract people; like making it a requirement on android phones?

        Well perhaps Google (or something handy with such things) should make a script that lets you export your data from Facebook (using the feature they provide, buried deep in account pages and such) and import into Google+

        But seeing the screenshots of GP, I'm starting to change my mind. It looks a lot like a Facebook competitor. Hopefully app support will be added so that people will start to switch and show Facebook that the only reason people are using their service, is because there was nothing else out there.

        Will we then see Face[____]?

    Grayda is probably right about 'Apps' for attracting people to use GP. I look forward to not having 'Apps' though. Requests to sign up to some App feels like spam to me. All of Facebook just seems lowly and spam-like to me.

    In Facebook naivety a few years ago I accepted nearly all 'Friend' requests even from people who I went to school with and haven't spoken to for a decade because I thought it seemed rude no to. I don't want to read their ridiculous status updates or get invitations to join misogynist and racist groups just to find my way to photos from a family/real friend's birthday party that I'd attended on the weekend. Google + will be a polite way to get rid of all those useless Friends.

    Google is on fire with launching some many things this week.

    A few days ago, I noticed that the Google navigation bar turned black, and I was wondering why - it's because of Google+ http://www.jackcola.org/blog/168-google-tests-a-black-navigation-bar

    If only my friends used GMAIL, seriously, I love that stuff, Docs is the best thing for uni students EVER.

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