What’s it all about?
It’s basically Google’s answer to Facebook, but with added extras. A social network on speed, if you will. It allows you to connect with people, live chat with groups of friends, make video calls, share your photos and videos online and stream all of your interests in the one place.
How does it work?
There are currently five aspects of the site, with more to be added later:
You have different friendship circles in real life; school friends, work friends, uni friends, random friends and Google+ circles work off this principle. What you would share with your closest girlfriends is probably not something you would want your Great Aunt Beryl to know about. You can name each circle and drag and drop people into them and know you are only sharing photos and updates with that group.
This is the video chat part of Google+, with hangouts you can see what friends are online and with a click of a button, join their ‘hangout’. Which is like a group video Skype chat, but free.
Sparks work like Facebook’s live feed function, but it only displays content you are interested in. You can select anything from juggling to organic food and it will flag videos, articles and blogs for you to watch, read or share. The idea behind this is that you will then onshare it with your friendship circles to ‘spark’ conversation.
This option allows your phone to automatically upload any photos or footage you take straight to your Google account, ready for you to share on Google+ or save to your computer. If like me, this option scares you a little, you are able to turn it off.
This is pretty much the same as Facebook’s news feed, however you can select which circles you choose to get updates from.
This works on the android phone application, and it’s a way for you to send text messages to friends in your ‘circle’, wait for it… ALL at the same time. So there is no need to conduct five phone calls and send 17 text messages to try to arrange a get together with your mates. Welcome to the future, I like it already.
Is it any different to Facebook?
Instead of purely being based on friendship principles, Google+ tries to cover the whole scope of what we use the internet and social media for. By adding functions like live chatting and video calling, this reduces your need to use a second application like Skype. And the ‘circles’ function allow you to interact with colleagues and acquaintances like you would on LinkedIn without having to share all your personal information like you do on Facebook.
The Google+ team have really taken note of the privacy issues many Facebook users have as the privacy set up on Google+ is a lot more user friendly. There is no convoluted system to try to figure out what you are sharing publicly and privately and many of the options like photo sharing are set to private by default.
Note: Since the Google+ launch, Facebook have added a video chat function (powered by Skype) and have redesigned their chat function to bring it in line with Google+’s features.
Do I need it?
What you really want to know is, will it mean social death if you don’t join it? In short, no. Early adopters and techno geeks will of course embrace it, but you can be sufficiently connected by Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn without adding another means of distraction. But if you are over using Facebook and want a fresh start to your social media, jump on board.
Will I get bored of it after a week?
Hard to say, it does require you to re-find and re-add all of your social network, which does require a certain level of effort. However if you use Skype a lot and don’t like to add every person you meet to your Facebook account, you’ll probably love it.
How do I sign up?
Well, you can’t. You can let Google know you are interested here, but as it is on a limited closed run at the moment, you need to be invited by someone who is already in. You could try asking your friends on Facebook or Twitter if they can invite you.
Watch the demo of Google Plus here: