As most of you know, this past Tuesday marked the launch of Google’s latest social networking service: Google+. The search engine giant proceeded cautiously, offering invitations to only a select population to make sure the rollout was slow enough to catch any problems that arose.
On Wednesday night users were briefly allowed to invite new members, but that opportunity ended rapidly due to the large response rate. However, Google then tweeted on July 6th that the service is open to anyone with a Google account. All users need to do is go to plus.google.com to sign up.
In just over a week the service has gained enough traffic to easily eclipse Google Buzz, so it will be interesting to see what happens now that it is open to all users who have a Google account.
So what exactly is Google+, and why are people so eager to access it?
Simply put, Google+ is a social networking service that allows people to interact with friends, share content and photos and get the latest news and updates on one simple platform. It’s Google’s response to the success of Twitter and Facebook, and the company’s attempt to gain some control of the growing social sphere.
In Google’s words, this service is designed for “making connecting with people on the web more like connection with them in the real world.”
The main functions of Google+ include:
- Circles: allow users to organize contacts according to their real-life social connections. There can be circles for friends, family members, coworkers, professional contacts and more. You choose what you share with each circle and customize your profile information depending on which circle is viewing it.
- Stream: a place to get updates from friends, view all kinds of content and have meaningful conversations with people in your circles. You can see content from people who have shared specifically with you, content shared by all your circles, and content from people who aren’t in your circles but are still sharing with you. Your stream is where you make your own updates, too.
- Sparks: brings you stories from all across the Web that are organized into interest groups. You choose your interests, so you get to see the latest trending content for the things that matter most to you.
- Photo Sharing: whether you want to share from your Stream, the Google+ bar, the Google+ photos homepage or your Google profile, you can upload photos to share with anyone in any of your circles.
- Hangouts: allow you to hang out with friends who are currently online using live video chat.
There is also a Google+ Mobile application, currently available on the Android platform, and soon to come for Apple users. If you want to get more information on these functions and the other services available through Google+, check out the project overview here.
We should note that although this feature does not currently exist, Google has revealed that it is working on a Google+ experience for businesses that will be rolled out later this year.
A few people here at Fathom were given invites to Google+. Below are the initial things they like and dislike about the service.
- The ability to easily manage updates to Circles so that posts can be shown to some people and not others
- The simple interface
- Easy management of profile visibility
- The “follow” circle which allows you to see updates from people who don’t necessarily know you
- The ability to connect with friends and view their profile, but also keep up with celebrities and other notable people
- Not enough people involved (yet)
- The check-in feature not being tied to Latitude
- Unreliability of the Android app with pushing updates and notifications
- Lack of ability to control the prioritization of your stream. The post with the latest comment is shown at the top.
- Can be difficult to find people if their Google profiles are not already optimized
- “People search” opens up in a new browser tab
Only time will tell how successful Google+ will be at maintaining interest and gaining a share of the social sphere. Let us know what you think. Does the search engine giant have a winning product with Google+? Or will it fail to live up to expectations, much like the failed Google Buzz?