It’s been dubbed a Facebook and Twitter killer, a new social network to rival the big two, where we tweet and update our statuses every minute of every day.
But what is Google+? Or should that be Google Plus? Launched last week by the search engine giant, if you’ve not yet had an invite to join then you’re not alone.
Google is testing the service with a small number of people and has closed applications for a login right now, promising to let others in again soon. But you can register your interest to receive an email when the doors open on the Google+ homepage.
Google+ is a bit like a social network, although a sharing network would be a better description. Just with its rivals, you connect up to people you know, and those you don’t, to find out what’s going on in your world, their world and the rest of the world around us.
Already it seems better thought out than Google Wave. That was another project from the technology company, which tried to jump on the social network bandwagon. It was closed down though after a few months when people shunned it because it was too complicated.
So what is Google+? Well, for a start it is accessed by a new +You option on the Google taskbar. Want to know more? Then read on…
It All Starts with Circles of Friends
This is as obvious as it is clever. In life you have different groups of mates and family, and they’re commonly known as your social circles. Google Plus turns this interactive allowing you to drag people you’re connected to into differently labeled CIRCLES. You choose the circle name too, and no-one within it will know what it is called. That could be fun! Google say: “Circles let you share what matters with the people who matter.” A range of privacy controls keep your content from prying eyes and you can find suggestions of new people to add or share your thoughts with extended circles, those your friends are in. There’s also a PROFILE option to fill out.
Now it’s All About Hanging Out
Once in a circle, you’ll want to interact. HANGOUTS is the place to do this, a virtual video area where Google+ users can get together for video chats. Everyone is shown on the screen as a thumbnail and the person talking loudest takes the main slot. You can all sit there watching a YouTube video together or just catch-up. But beware, anyone can invite anyone to a Hangout so you may find people gatecrashing. Let’s hope it doesn’t turn into Chatroulette. Although talking of chat, a version of Google Chat is also built-in.
Google+ is About Sharing
It’s clear to see the service is based around this concept and Google itself explains: “Sharing is a huge part of the web, a part that we think could be a lot simpler. That’s why we’ve
been working on adding a few new things to Google: To make connecting with people on the web more like connecting with them in the real world.”
Picture This, and Picture That
As with Facebook, you can see any photos your friends place on Google+, split into circles again – and you can create a whole load of albums to share with those you choose to show them to. Google state you can store unlimited photos, up to 2,048×2048 pixels in size and unlimited video, including 1080p HD, up to 15 minutes in length each. You can add tags and captions and decide who sees what. INSTANT UPLOAD does exactly what it says on the tin and allows you to instantly upload photos and videos from your phone to your Google+ album.
Searching for Stuff that Sparks Your Interest
As you’d expect, search plays a key part. On Facebook and Twitter, people manually share links to read or view. In Google+ you choose favourite topics and get alerted to stories you might want to read or videos worth watching. It’s called SPARKS and is a bit like a new-style RSS reader really. Choose your preferences, either general such as Food or Music, or even more specific, and wait for something to appear. It’s like a personalised version of Google Alerts.
Get Into a Huddle
Another neat phone feature, HUDDLE turns texts into conversations. Again, it is not a revolution but does ensure all your conversations with those circles of friends are collated into one simple stream.
Always Ready to Reinvent Itself
Google prides itself on innovation and Google+ will be a great example of this. The company is always tweaking its offerings, for example it just overhauled the search homepage and Gmail. But with Google+ it will constantly add new features, much of it likely to be based on user feedback. So there should be none of the outcries seen on Facebook when a new feature is added but hated by the people logging on each day. As Google promises: “We hope that you like what we’ve cooked up so far. And stay tuned, because there’s more to come.”
The Stream of Consciousness
The STREAM is like your Facebook News Feed or Twitter Timeline. It’s the place where all the latest postings appear from your Circles, and also contains other things you may find of interest. You’ll be able to see who is sharing with who and filter out the good and the bad. The INCOMING area shows stuff shared by those not in your Circles, allowing you to choose whether you want to make these people part of your world. And don’t worry, using the GOOGLE+ BAR, you can tell everyone what’s on your mind in the style of your Facebook Status or
Make a +1 Recommendation
On Twitter you Re-Tweet things you like, on Facebook you Like them – but on Google Plus you +1 it… naturally. You simply press the new +1 button on website pages, links and comments and then people in your circles see what takes your fancy. You’ll also be able to view other people’s +1s and slowly build up groups of users who regularly share content that most interests you. Their +1s will then appear more prominently than others.
Google+ on Your Mobile
There’s already an app available from the Android Market for Google+ and one for the iPhone is promised to be on the way. On other phones you can access it by going to the site via your browser. Whether Google decide to boost the ownership of Android handsets by offering specific Google+ features to users of its own operating system, remains to be seen. But if it’s already taking on Facebook and Twitter, then challenging Apple too does seem an obvious way to go.