Finally, there might be something that can challenge Facebook’s throne: Google+. That’s right, the company that you’ve already let run your life is going to run a little bit more of it.
As for Google+, they recently announced they had 10 million members. That’s quite a few people. But good money says that you don’t know anyone who has an account. That’s because Google+ is still operating on an invite only system. But more about the behind the scenes later. Let’s talk about features!
In Google+, you organize the people you know in Circles. By adding someone to a circle, you can follow their public posts. But in order to see someone’s private posts, they have to add you to one of their circles. In this way you can both share information publicly or with only the people in your circles.
Google+ gives you a few default circles to help you out and this also helps illustrate how you share information. Two of the default circles, family and friends, make this easy. There are some things that you would want to share with your friends, but not your family and vice versa.
Posting and circles are only a small part of what Google+ has to offer. There are two more core features that are quite nifty. The first is Hangouts.
Hangouts are like grown-up video chats. They combine video, voice and text chatting. When you load the window, Google+ shows you your video feed and, in Google fashion, asks you to check your hair. One of the things Google+ tries to do is switch the main video feed to whomever is talking, it seems to work pretty well as long as only one person is talking at once. Occasionally, it will jump to a random person’s video if they laugh or make too much noise while someone else is talking.
The interface gives you all the options you’d expect in a video chat, such as muting the audio or cutting your mic off.
Next is Sparks. Sparks is a way to keep up with what you find interesting in the world. You add your interests either from the predefined options listed or by searching yourself.
The final part about the concept of Google+ is how you manage your profile. What makes this better than Facebook is how you manage who sees what. When you edit an option you see two things: the information you are editing and who can see that information. The last option is very powerful. With “Custom” you cannot only choose specific circles to share this information with, but specific people as well. This is useful for hiding your secret agent identity from those who aren’t in your ‘Need-to-Know’ circle.
At the top you will find the new ever-present gray bar that puts a roof on all Google affiliants. This provides a quick way to get around the rest of your account. On the right side of this bar you will be presented with a fast way to navigate your profile, the number of notifications you have, a fast way to share something, another link to navigate your profile and way to access the settings.
On the left side you’ll find a bar that contains your Stream, Sparks and Chat.
To your right you will see amazing tropical birds, *ahem* people in your circles, people Google+ thinks should be in your circles (for me filled with people who don’t use Google+), a big green button to start a hangout, an offering for their mobile app and a way to invite people to Google+.
Finally, in the middle of the screen is your actual stream. This simply shows you what other people are posting. Under each post is a +1 button that lets you like, excuse me “+1” something. Google says you can use this to show you agree with something, that you like something or want to share it with others. All of your +1’s appear on your profile page. You can also leave comments and share and do all the other stuff that makes Google+ a social network. After you comment on something you will be notified of every other comment, which is good as it helps keep you up-to-date with the conversation.
The question is: will people be willing to jump ship until all of their other friends have done the same? Only time will tell.
I’m hopeful that Google+ will take off. For that to happen people need to use it. And not just use it a little but, throw themselves at it 100% without ducking back to Facebook for their “real” social networking needs.Contact Emory Dunn.