On Tuesday, Google launched its social networking “project” Google+ (pronounced Google Plus).
Like Gmail before it, Google+ is open to users on an invitation-only basis in this early stage.
The company explained its limited field trial on Google+: “Right now, we’re testing with a small number of people, but it won’t be long before the Google+ project is ready for everyone. Leave us your email address and we’ll make sure you’re the first to know when we’re ready to invite more people.”
Here are my thoughts on the new Google+ features from my limited experience with it:
- The +1 Button: According to Google, the +1 button is shorthand for “this is pretty cool” or “you should check this out.” All of your +1 recommendations will get saved in a new tab on your Google profile. The nice thing about this feature is users can choose to show their +1’s tab or keep it private and use it as a bookmarking system. Here’s a quick video on +1’s.
- Circles: All of your different groups of friends and acquaintances get their own circle, so you can “share different things with different people.” Now you don’t have to worry about your parents or business colleagues seeing something your friends are talking about.
- Hangouts: If you weren’t already addicted to your electronic technology, now you can spend hours “hanging out” online waiting for friends to join you in a “face-to-face” chat. Or you could call them up, make plans, and interact on a human level. I have a feeling this will start with a bang (a la chatroulette) and phase out to cross-country families and long distance couples as its heaviest users. Fun fact about this feature: whoever speaks the loudest becomes center screen.
- Sparks: Seems like Bing by Google or Google alerts. You can add topics to a sparks sidebar, and click on them and at any time get information on your favorite topics. Their examples included fashion, music and food.
Google+ also adds features to your Gmail accounts, like the people involved in an email and abilities such as: start a chat with the group, email the group, schedule something for your group, and previous emails from the sender. They add a bit of clutter to your inbox, but hopefully people will be able to opt out, like with the irritating priority inbox tabs.
Mobile features on, you guessed it, Android phones should give non-iPhone users something to gloat about.
- Huddle: Group texting/chat for your cell phone.
- Instant upload: Allows videos and photos to go straight from your phone to a private online account. Definitely good for breaking news or citizen journalists, bad news for that friend of yours that is always taking accidental videos of the inside of a bag.
Aesthetically it’s a cross between the clean white lines and intuitive functionality of Google and the general layout and features of Facebook. However, I think it’s got a long way to go before it steals away the Facebook audience, especially as it doesn’t seem to offer any viable marketing opportunities for businesses (a rising chunk of Facebook’s users).
The one place it is definitely going after Facebook is on the privacy front, and all of the features seem to offer an element of privacy and self-selection of viewers.
Mashable writer, Ben Parr received access to Google+ and an interview with its creator Vic Gundotra, Google’s senior vice president of social.
Parr says, “The search giant’s new social project will be omnipresent on its products, thanks to a complete redesign of the navigation bar. The familiar gray strip at the top of every Google page will turn black, and come with several new options for accessing your Google+ profile, viewing notifications and instantly sharing content. The notification system is similar to how Facebook handles notifications, complete with a red number that increases with each additional notice.”
For now, Facebook remains the king of the mountain.
What do you think of Google+? Is it worth the hype? Will you use it instead of Facebook?
All pictures are screen shots from the Google+ demo.