The New Google Social Network – Google+

The end of June 2011 saw Google finally unveiling Google+, the company’s top secret social layer that aims to turn the entire search engine into one giant social network. With both of Google’s previous social networking tools (Google Wave and Google Buzz) failing to catch on, Google has invested a lot of time and money to ensure that its latest product comes out as a serious threat to Facebook.

Google + which is starting out on an ‘invite only basis’ has a bevy of interesting features that makes it ready to take on the social networking scene by storm. Here’s a quick look at some of those interesting features.

  • Stream: This is the first thing users are introduced to on Google+. Similar to Facebook’s News Feed the Google+ profile will centre around the Stream- this is where all of your info, photos, videos, links and updates from your friends are rounded up and constantly updated.
  • Circles: The Circles option allows you to categories people into various social groups. Users can create different social circles for friends, family, classmates, co-workers, acquaintances etc., and drag-and-drop friends in and out of these circles. This is very helpful as it lets you share appropriate stories/posts with your friends/family members/co-workers.
  • Hangouts: This interesting feature helps you to chat and video chat with up to 10 friends. The Hangout feature is pretty cool as it alerts other people in your Circles that you have started a Hangout so they can join. Another cool feature of Hangouts is that it doesn’t place a chat window on the screen for each participant. Instead, Google changes the chat screen to whoever is currently talking by quickly switching from video feed to video feed, moving faster in bigger groups. Though the maximum number in a video Hangout is 10, users can get on a waitlist and wait for someone to leave.
  • Sparks: Google describes the Sparks feature as “an online sharing engine.”  In order to spur sharing, Google Sparks helps find interesting content (articles, videos, photos) grouped by interest.  For example the “Music” spark will have a listing of recent and relevant content for that topic. This algorithmic system relies on information from other Google products (e.g. Google Search) as well as what is being shared via Google+ and through +1 buttons.
  • Huddle: This option allows multiple users to have an instant conversation with each other. It is similar to a group chat allowing everyone to get on the same page all at once.
  • Photos: The Photos feature is very streamlined and allows you to quickly flip through your friend’s images and add comments quickly, along with seeing all other comments. Google + also has included an image editor (complete with Instagram-like photo effects), privacy options and sharing features. Uploading of photos is also relatively easy and fast.
  • Mobile: Google has promised to launch mobile apps for Google+, starting with Android. The Android app includes access to the Stream, Circles, Sparks and multimedia. The plus point in the app is the app’s auto-upload feature. This allows any photo or video you take on your phone through Google+ to be automatically uploaded to your computer, ready to share if and when needed.
  • Security: Google+ has many new security options that you can set when sharing things with your circles. It allows you to pick which Circles you want to share with and it also allows you to stop people from commenting on anything you shared and from them resharing it with their circles.

Though the Google+ is packed with many new and interesting features making it ‘coolest new thing on the block’, its steep learning curve could discourage many new users, especially the ones who are not too tech savvy. Only time will tell if Google is able to succeed at cracking the social networking nut.