The New Social Network - Google Plus

Matcha Design - Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Currently only open by invitation, Google's new social network platform, Google+ (pronounced Google Plus) is already getting quite a bit of attention. Like Facebook and Twitter, the main feature of Google+ is microblogging. Google+'s form of microblogging is more similar to Facebook's, in that posts are not limited to a specific number of characters, and may natively include photos and videos, rather than simply linking to them as one must with Twitter. Comments and +1 are also allowed on posts, and +1s on comments, similar to Facebook. Users can also re-share posts, similar to retweeting on Twitter. Google+ also interfaces with Google Talk, to allow in-browser chatting among users.

Also like Facebook, Google+ includes a user's photos and videos on their profile, and allows users to tag themselves and each other in photos and videos. Rather than simply "following" or "friending" people, Google+ users can add them to one or more "circles," which include Family, Friends, Acquaintances, and Following by default, though users can create any number of circles. Whenever a user shares any type of content, they can choose which circles to share it with. Further, users can see whose circles they are in, but not the names of anyone else's circles.

Unlike Facebook, but like Twitter, connecting to another user is a one-way relationship. You don't have to confirm friends on Google+, so it has the potential to follow in Twitter's footsteps in allowing people to connect with celebrities for example. Unlike Twitter, however, the feature of choosing whether to share with certain circles or the entire internet allows these celebrities to keep some things private among just their friends while sharing others with their fans.

Google+ also introduces several original features. "Hangouts" allow users to start video chat rooms with their circles. Users in a hangout can invite others, text chat, and even watch YouTube videos together, synchronized. Huddles are group chat rooms for mobile devices. The new black toolbar at the top of other Google services, such as Gmail and Google Search, shows Google+ notifications and a share box, along with quick links to circles and other + features. Sparks are a stream of content from all over the web, sorted by interests that you choose, and you can also share sparks with your circles. Instant upload automatically makes pictures you take with your Android device available to share on Google+, but don't worry - nobody else can see them unless you explicitly share them.

I have high hopes for Google+. I've personally been tired of Facebook for some time now, what with their tacked-on features and countless pointless apps filling my wall thanks to my friends, and although I quite like Twitter, it always felt like some features were missing. I think Google+ stands a great chance at becoming the dominant social network, being much simpler than Facebook, more fully-featured than Twitter, and with more fine-grained and intuitive privacy features than either of them.

About Matcha Design
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