First Impressions of Google+ and How it Hopes to Trump Facebook
Google+, Google’s social networking site, debuted recently to a select group of testers. Google+ has features that will be familiar to most Facebook users, and yet there are many other new unique features that Google+ has introduced as well. Will this mix of new and old features be enough to convert the Facebook faithful?
The heart of the new Google+ service are “Circles” that users can add friends to. Rather than lumping all your friends together like Facebook, Google+ allows users to organize their contacts into several different categories. Friends, colleagues and family can be grouped separately for easy organization. For those concerned with privacy, any content posted to Google+ can be shared strictly with just one Circle. This means any potentially embarrassing content can be shared strictly with family, and business discussions can be shared only with colleagues. Adding contacts to Circles is easy as well, due to the way Google integrates all of their services into Google+. All of your Gmail contacts, for example, can be imported to your Google+ Circles.
Google+ also introduces a unique feature called “Google Hangouts” that users can use to connect with friends in their Circles. Hangouts utilize video chatting to allow up to 10 people to chat at once. While 10 people talking at once could get confusing, the Hangout service will always move the person currently speaking to the center of the screen. This is in an attempt to make following conversations easier. Additionally, users can also post YouTube videos to the Hangout. With this feature, Google hopes to connect users in a way that Facebook currently cannot.
Google+ is also able to integrate many of Google’s other services to provide content for the service. The Sparks feature, for instance, uses Google’s search functionality and YouTube integration to tailor new content to a user’s interests. If you say you like “funny cats” for instance, the Sparks feature of Google+ will provides news items and videos about funny cats. In addition to integrating their YouTube and Gmail services with Google+, other services such as Picasa photo albums are available for users to import content from. Google’s Android platform has already received a mobile Google+ app that allows users to use the service on the go.
Other features of the service will be very familiar to Facebook users
- The Stream section of Google+ culls together information from friends in much the same way as the Facebook News Feed.
- Google+ has a “+1” feature that functions in the same way as the “Like” feature on Facebook.
- Users also fill out a profile (complete with profile picture) that is very similar to Facebook’s existing design.
While Google+ definitely offers many fresh ideas, only time will tell whether it can overcome Facebook as the social networking king. While the similarity between the two could be a selling point for some, it could also put off those looking for an entirely new alternative. When Google+ goes public later this year, users can find out for themselves.
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