Google+ Has Arrived!
Google’s new super-secret social project is finally being rolled out …to a select few, for now at least.
But wait to you hear what Google + has got under its hood; more than just a pretty face (and it is quite attractive, thank goodness), the new social project tries to address the gaps and missing pieces in the current social network paradigm. Vic Gundotra, one of the key players in Google +’s creation, explains :
“We believe online sharing is broken. And even awkward…We think connecting with other people is a basic human need. We do it all the time in real life, but our online tools are rigid. They force us into buckets — or into being completely public…Real life sharing is nuanced and rich. It has been hard to get that into software.”
Google + has done its best to bring that real life quality of conversation and interaction to social media with some unique features.
Introducing the long-awaited Google +!
Google +’s Impressive Design
Looks Aren’t Everything, But They Certainly Help
While Google isn’t exactly known for its focus on the aesthetics, Google + features a clean and attractive design as charming as any Apple product. Not a surprise, considering that Andy Hertzelf, referred to as “the original Mac guy”, was involved in the interface development. Alright, so it looks a little bit…OK, a lot like Facebook —but when it works, it works!
Take special note of:
Sleek Toolbar: You may have already seen it hovering above Google sites – it’s a precursor of what is to come. With different sites offering a fragmented variety of sharing options, the new toolbar aims to unify and make sharing easy.
As MG Siegler of TechCrunch notes , the toolbar:
“…spans all of Google’s properties and brings with it a notification system. It’s brilliant. A few times today I left Google+ and probably wouldn’t have come back for a while, but these notifications pulled me back in.”
Currently you’ll only see the toolbar on Google properties, but imagine a not-so-distant future complete with browser extensions.
The new interface also boasts:
- Real-time feed of friends’ activity
- Easy access to Google property such as Picasa and YouTube
Circles seems to be Google +’s golden boy, attempting to succeed where Facebook failed with the burdensome and clunky Groups feature.
Google notes that our real-world relationships are rich and complex, and while other social media sites try to force users into an all-or-nothing approach, that is not how we lead our lives—you don’t want your grandmother seeing photos from your Friday night excursions, especially not when she posts embarrassing comments.
Circles is a fun and intuitive solution to this age old problem of censorship. With a click of a mouse, you can simply drag selected friends into different circle groups. You can easily create a College Friends circle, Family circle, Ultimate Frisbee Team circle, etc. and share content with only selected groups.
Dubbed the “sharing engine”, rather than search engine, Sparks lets you easily find and share content that interests you. Type in an interest and Google will find what it reckons you’ll like, giving you a smorgasbord of blog posts, videos, links, images, etc. When something tickles your fancy, you can add it to an interests list or share it with Circles. You can also see what other people are talking about in a “featured interests” area, not unlike Twitter’s trending topics.
Instant Upload lets you snap and share photos easily with Android phones. After downloading the new app, any photo or video you shoot will automatically be uploaded to Google+ and stored in a private album. You can then select certain photos to share however you please.
Huddle is a group messaging app for Android OS , iphone, and SMS, offering an easy way to message and make plans with different Circles. Invite carnivore friends out for meat lover’s pizza, or invite your vegetarian friends to watch enviously!
The video introducing this feature  notes that creativity stems from boredom. Advances in technology and reliance on the internet encourages a lifestyle full of planning and preparation, but often the best moments are the ones unplanned.
Hangout hopes to be a new kind of video chat that allows friends to simply bump into each other in the metaphorical sense. If your friend is hanging out and up for a chat, a “Join Hangout” icon appears, and if you’re chatting with a Circle, other folks in that circle get an offer to join the hangout, working for up to 10 people. It relies on a sweet sense of spontaneity.
What I also love is that you can share something like a YouTube clip, and people in the Hangout can watch and discuss it together. Watch your friends’ faces as they laugh over your latest adorable kitty video.
+1 Starts to Make Sense
Ahh yes, +1, our old awkward nemesis . Well, +1 is a lot less awkward when integrated with Google + (the + signs finally are coming together). Your Google + profile will show what you’ve shared socially as well as your +1s.
What Others Are Saying…
I find Google + quite exciting and can’t wait to try it out. Responses across the web vary from enthusiastic to skeptical; will Google+ be another flop that falls victim to its buzz (poor Google Buzz, it’s so fun to tease), or give Facebook a run for its money? We will start seeing some intense Facebook vs. Google  competition?
Here are some notable quotes from others sources:
“Despite the fact that Google is denying the “Facebook killer” moniker, it’s clear that this is a full-fledged social network, and Facebook is the most comparable. People won’t be picking both. It’s going to be one or the other for most users, and while there may be a healthy split between the two – a la iOS vs Android – Google will come out as either a winner or a loser”
- Rob Young of Search Engine Journal .
"The whole idea of a Google social network...they've been throwing stuff against the wall for several years and so forth nothing has stuck....[Going to Google for social is like] going to Starbucks for the muffins. Or, for that matter, going to Facebook for search."
- Debra Aho Williamson, principal analyst with research  firm eMarketer
“I am concerned that this quest for some kind of social ‘relevance’ is going to make Google a less potent search engine. I think that social cues are going to limit options rather than expand them in many cases. I truly fear that people will be less independent and even more dependent…. What I can say is that I am not interested in being all social all the time. I don’t think it’s healthy. Apparently though it’s lucrative so that’s what matters to the likes of Google and Facebook.”
-Frank Reed from Marketing Pilgrim 
What do you think about Google+ ? Does is stand a chance of becoming the new social norm?