Since Google unveiled its +1 button in March, some internet users have been waiting for the search engine company to make its mark on the social network scene. Finally, Google Plus (or Google+) joins the ranks, rivaling current juggernauts, including the mighty Facebook.
Google Plus resembles Facebook in that it includes streaming feeds and friends, but there are some unique stipulations. Google Plus requires you to have a Google profile and Gmail account. While you may need to take the extra step of creating these, it may also prove more convenient to have all of your applications integrated into one place.
The five main attributes of Google Plus are: Circles, Sparks, Hangouts, Huddles and Instant Uploads.
Circles allow you to group your contacts. This means that you can share information with certain groups of contacts instead of hitting everyone with one feed all at once. Simply choose which circles you wish to see and share with, and keep your party photos separate from your business associates.
Sparks perform like RSS feed readers or newsfeeds, bringing you information feeds from your personal interests.
Hangouts feature live group video chats, allowing you to meet with up to 10 people. In addition, you can alert certain groups when you are 'hanging out'.
Huddles are group texting features (similar to Beluga) that let you chat with a group via your smartphone.
Instant Uploads takes care of the increasingly important mobile aspect of social networking. This feature makes it possible to post directly from your smartphone. Whether posting photos or videos from your phone, everything goes into a private album. From there, you can decide with whom to share media. If desired, you may also add a geographical location to any post.
In addition to these internal features, Google has introduced the '+1' button next to search results that it generates. This new feature integrates directly with your Google profile and Google Plus account. The +1 button allows you to share your interests without copying and pasting links, as you would have to do on other social media sites. Share a restaurant that you liked or a movie trailer that you just watched simply by clicking the +1 button in your search results.
Google Plus was launched as a limited field trial. Access to the project is currently by invitation only, and a limited number of users were each given fifteen invitations to bring others on board. As use expands, however, it is expected that Google Plus will rapidly gain momentum in the social networking realm. As for Google Plus existing as a serious Facebook competitor, only time will tell. As is often the case, it may come down to new vs. mindlessly familiar.