Google+: First Look

Waiting for a Google+ invite is currently what all the cool kids are doing. Google's latest answer to the social networks, Google+ opened up for a small group of testers, a few days ago. Invites spread like wildfire and Google had to shut down the invite button. Google+ is supposed to be Google's Facebook takedown device, but here's the problem with that; Facebook's already established itself and its format. Using Facebook's basic layout and adding a few more features upon it really doesn't give Google+ an edge. Users saw the futility of Google Wave, and Buzz didn't seemingly catch on. Will Google+ be an answer to Google's social scramble? Probably not. But there still is some fun to be had.



When you look at Google+, of course the first thing that jumps to your head is, "Oh hello, Flash free version of Facebook".The home news feed is laid out like Facebook's, as is the individual profile page. On the LHS of the homepage, you can choose whose updates you want to stream, and below that is your GTalk window. Up top you have your navigation bar which will take you from your homepage to a photos page, your profile page or your circles page.



Google+ wants to pride itself on its features, some of which, I'll admit, are worth the 15 seconds of interest that Google+ will hold. For one, managing your contacts in groups of circles and dividing them by friends, family, acqaintances, colleagues, etc. is an interesting concept. It helps when you want to share information, because you can choose which circle you want to share what with. The other feature that Google's priding itself on with Google+ is Hangout. Hangout allows you to set up a group video chat session with entire circles of contacts or individual contacts whose email addresses you add. The obvious problem with this, just like any other chat program, is not everyone in your circle of choice will be online at the same time. However, Hangout is a more intuitive way of video calling just because it works off your Google contacts. However, now that Skype and Facebook are getting along better, we'll see what they retaliate with.

Circles on Google Plus

Circles on Google Plus



There's also an easy to miss feature in there, called Sparks. Sparks allows you to view content online divided into categories of interest like Cycling, Fashion, Soccer, Comics etc. These categories are content aggregators, and you can make more of your own categories, as well. Here, it really feels like Google's trying to take Zite and put it into a social network.

Spark wants to bring you Zite on the web


Spark wants to bring you Zite on the web



No social network would be complete without the ability to share photos and videos, of course. You can add pictures by dragging and dropping or choosing from your computer, or more intuitively, directly from your Android phone without the need of wires. The catch is, when you add any photo, or an album, in order to get published, it must be shared with either your circles or individual contacts (hint: you can share with circles that don't have any contacts just so the picture/s get published). This is where Google seems to have taken Facebook's 'share' philosophy and put it on steroids.


The one feature that currently seems a little pointless is how +1s work. +1 is Google's sharing service where if you like an article or a video you found, you hit +1. If you hit +1 on a link that a contact posts in Google+ itself, it goes into your +1 section of your profile. If, however, you hit +1 for an article on an external site, it doesn't automatically show up in your Google+ profile. There's also a Buzz section which seems to be Google's little, "let's revive this feature" technique. Or in a way, it's taking their version of Twitter and mashing it into their version of Facebook. However, the last time I buzzed was exactly a year ago and to me the addition of Buzz seems pointless.



If you're already on Facebook and all of your stuff is on Facebook, it's very unlikely that you're going to come over to Google+ to start Facebook over, from scratch. Hangout and Circles really aren't big enough features to pull Google+, in fact, they're better suited for GTalk itself. Google really didn't bring a new format of social networking to the table, instead it seems as if the folk who worked on this product sat in meeting room after meeting room asking questions like, "What does Facebook do? How can we Googlify it," and "What's Facebook not offering that Google can". In other words, Google+ seems derivative, and unless Google gives it a major overhaul, interest in it is going to die out.

Published Date: Jun 30, 2011 05:26 pm | Updated Date: Jun 30, 2011 05:26 pm