Google+: Initial Thoughts

A couple of days ago, I procured an invite to Google+, Google’s new social networking service. I’ve only played with it for a few hours, usually when I get notifications that people have added me to their circles, but I really like it so far.

Google+ looks similar to Facebook's news feed, but has a minimalistic, cleaner layout

The main page of Google+ looks like a more streamlined version of the Facebook news feed. You can view posts by circle (friend-group) if you like, and instead of “liking” a post you “+1” it.

Signing up with Google+ gives you a new toolbar that includes notifications and easy access to your Google+ page when you’re doing a Google search, and upon performing a search, you have an option to +1 links in the search results.

Here are some of the other features Google+ has to offer:

1. Circles: Adding friends is more like Twitter than like Facebook in Google+. Anyone can put you into one of their circles of friends, and you have the option of doing the same. You can also block users.

Circles allows you to create different groupings of friends, which further allows you to easily limit who you want posts to be visible to. Don’t want to start a political fight? Make a group of like-minded people and only post political items for them to see. Allowing groups from the get-go gives Google+ an advantage over Facebook—from the beginning of the service, you are able to sort your friends and acquaintances. With Facebook, I had to sort through all my friends after they rolled out the “Lists” feature, which was time-consuming.

2. Sparks: Sparks allows you to “Pin” interests in the sidebar, giving you easy access to stories about topics that appeal to you. I haven’t really messed around with Sparks yet, but so far, the topics are fairly broad. It’ll be interesting to see the direction that this feature goes—whether it’ll remain broad or whether there will be sub-categories that you can subscribe to.

3. Hangout: Hangout is, by far, my favorite feature of Google+ so far. Hangout allows you to video chat with several of your friends at once. I did this the other night with two of my friends, and we had a ball. The video was smooth most of the time, though we did experience some disconnections and some lag.

You can watch YouTube videos in Hangout—when you click the “YouTube” button, the other people in the hangout are notified that you’re watching a video and invited to watch whatever you’re watching.

I’ve enjoyed using Google+ so far; the look is clean and uncluttered, it’s easy to sort friends into circles, and the hangout feature is fantastic. If you get an invite, you should definitely try Google+—if for no other reason than to see what the fuss is about.

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