Social Networking as Google sees it.
Google recently revealed a closed beta of their upcoming Google Plus service through private invitations. Almost everyone wanted to get in and before you know it, Google closed the invitations system because of the massive demand. Luckily, there are some amazing people on the Internet that always figure out a work-around and that is how I managed to get onboard- through a trick that worked for a brief period of time.
Google Plus is Google’s attempt at trying to take a slice of the lucrative social pie that is currently dominated by Facebook and Twitter. Now this is not Google’s first attempt at this- they tried and failed with Wave and Buzz. But there is something different about Google+ that makes me like it.
You start off with pre-built “circles” for friends, family and acquaintances that are basically lists or folders of your contacts. So instead of simply “friending” a person you put them in one or multiple circles. Google scans your GMail with a list of recommended people you can add in your circles but can easily import from Yahoo or Hotmail as well.
Once you have your contacts encircled, you can post your own updates and pictures through Picasa as well as get a stream of updates from any or all circles and get a Facebook like stream. What you can also do is put contacts in your “follow” circle and receive updates from them which kinda gives it a bit of a twitter touch. Except that you’re not restricted to 140 characters.
Where Google+ differs is but letting you create “Hangouts” that are virtual chat rooms with audio and video- you need Google Voice plugin for it to work though. Now you know why you’ve been reading about the Facebook/Skype integration. You also have Google Talk for one on one chats while “Huddles” are group chats that work over mobile devices much like BBM. There is an Android app already available with an iOS app soon to follow.
Where Google really has an edge is that you will be able to get notifications from Google+ on any Google property. For example, if you go to GMail or Picasa, you will see your picture and name followed by a notification box on the right that turns red when you have a notification bringing you back to Plus. A smart move.
Obviously the success of Google+ depends on how many people you know that will be using it. But I must say that I like the direction it’s headed in. It’s not a Facebook or Twitter killer- and I doubt that it will ever become anything like that. Rather, it has a voice of its own and that, is a good thing.