I suppose unless you live under a rock or just don’t really care much about these things, Google has taken another stab at a social media network. This time it’s called Google+. The last one they tried, Google Wave, was pretty much a flop. This time, I think they might have got it right, or at least certainly much better. Currently, it’s in a beta phase where you have to be invited to join. Nothing more than a marketing gimmick really; however, I suppose it does help to keep out some of the riff-raff (bots, spammers, etc). Since this is in beta, the final interface and behavior may change from what I’m describing.
Before I go on too much farther, here is my Google+ Profile page (I made a custom sub-domain that redirects to the actual profile as I can remember it much easier than my Google+ ID). Since I have shared some items with the Public Circle, anyone on the web can see those posts on my profile. More about this circle business later. Google+ is similar to Facebook in that you can upload photos and videos, share items with groups of people, comment on anything and everything, and it even has its own version of the Facebook Like button, the +1 button. That multi-colored button above this post is Google’s +1 button. You may have noticed when looking at my profile that it has a +1’s tab. These are all the items outside of Google’s network that I have clicked a +1 button on. This is one difference from Facebook’s profile which does not have a “Like” tab. By default, you would not have been able to see this tab; however, I chose to make it visible to the public.
So, what’s this Circle business? This is one of the most important aspects of Google+. Circles are groups or lists of people. You can add anyone to one or more circles. It has a few circles such as Family, Friends, Acquaintances, and Following already defined. You can, of course, make your own circles. For example, I have a NASCAR circle and a EverQuest II circle. Whenever you add someone to a circle (which is like Following someone on Twitter), they are notified that they’ve been added but they will not know which or how many circles they’ve been added to. There are also special global circles. One is the Extended Circles, which is like Facebook’s Friends of Friends list, where it will share an item with everyone in your circles plus everyone in their circles. There is also the Public circle which means anyone on the web. They will see the post on your profile page even if they are not a member of Google+. You can also choose to share something with just individual people.. like sending a private message. You can also choose whether or not anything you share can be re-shared.
Stuff I Haven’t Really Messed With Yet
There are some other features of Google+ that I haven’t messed with yet. One is Hangouts where you can share a webcam feed with a circle of people or watch someone else’s webcam feed. I don’t have a webcam so it’s not something that I would initiate myself. There is also a thing called Sparks which appears to be a list of interests that you want to follow. It seems to find all the shared posts relevant to the topic or interest you specify based off keywords and/or other search algorithms. So, in my case, I could choose to add a Spark that looked for anything NASCAR related. You can also Chat with others but I have not done that either. Come to think of it, I don’t remember me ever doing that in Facebook either.
Is it better than Facebook or Twitter?
All I can really say right now is that it’s different and will most likely augment them. It’s too premature at this early stage to give a final review. One of the problems right now is that Google+ lacks much of the functionality that Facebook and Twitter have due to the lack of 3rd-Party Apps and an API to interface with the service. All of this is coming I am sure. Right now I can update my Facebook status with a Tweet using the Selective Tweets Facebook application. Something like this doesn’t exist for Google+ yet (well, that I know of.. things change so fast these days). There’s also not an automated way for me to update Google+ with the current song I’m playing in Winamp. Although, I did just have an idea about that, hehe.
There are a lot of details I didn’t go into here because if I did this post would be huge and would probably warrant their own post.
For now, all I can say is that Google+ is not too bad.