There’s a new social network in town, and although it may be a little too closely resembling Facebook and other social networks, I have put my apprehension aside to notice that there are a few highlights within the Google+ Project. This platform – with features like Circles, Stream, Sparks, Huddles, Instant Upload, and Hangouts – has been rolled out by Google today and is available to a limited number of users.
The new Circles feature, similar to Facebook’s Lists and Groups is a way to organize connections within Google+. With an easy drag-and-drop, users are joined together into corresponding categories now referred to as Circles, with no limit to the number of Circles a user can have. (Click on image to watch video.)
Within these Circles, users can share information, links and more content with a specific group of people rather than their entire social network.
As with Facebook’s news feed, there is the Google Stream; the place where the content shared is located. A new black navigation bar that was recently launched within the past week, allows users to share anything they come across on the web.
Additionally, within the Google+ sharing box are links to provide images, location and more.
Similar to more than just Facebook, is the ability for Google+ users to follow those who do not follow them back (think Twitter). To avoid any privacy concerns, users who follow those who do not follow them back will only see their content if it was shared publicly. In other words, sharing can be restricted to specific Circles or users.
Additionally, if connections remain as email-only contacts, content can still be shared without them joining Google+. However, any time a user attempts to share content to that user, they will receive notifications in their inbox.
If you’re one who runs low on content to share, do not worry. Another element to this project is Google Sparks – a feature that suggests different links or content based on previously determined keyword-based searches. By creating searches based on topics of interest, relevant content that other users are already sharing are suggested – similar to its own product, Google Alerts. (Click on image to watch video.)
Yet another element to Google+, is Hangouts. This feature allows up to 10 users at a time to have a video chat session within the network. Google describes this feature as a way for social connections to casually join in on conversations already taking place. So, should a user see that some of their connections are taking place in video chat, they could choose to take part as long as there is room to partake. (Click on image to watch video.)
Implementing an SMS element to Google+, the Huddle feature allows users who are part of Circles to group chat via text. Instead of having to text those individuals separately, Huddle allows all those within a Circle to simultaneously discuss things between themselves.
Lastly, and arguably the most notable feature, is Instant Upload. Although currently only available on Android, users can upload any images or videos right to a private photo album within Google+. (Click on image to watch video.)
Launching Google+ is a competitive move on Google’s part, not only towards Facebook, but other social platforms as well. Currently only offered to a limited amount of users, it is unknown when more invites will become available. With the viral growth Facebook, Twitter, and many other social media platforms have received, it remains uncertain what kind of response Google+ will see.