You could have guessed this was where Google was heading. After trying everything under the sun, including the micro-blogging platform (Buzz) and the quickly-forgotten social networking site (Wave), Google+ seems like it is here to stay. For the uninitiated, Google+ or ‘Plus’ for short, appears to be Google’s final and definitive answer to social networking.
Although the service is still in, what Google calls a ‘limited field trial’ stage, you can head tohttp://plus.google.comto check whether the service is available to you or not.Upon first look, the best thing about Plus is that it makes good use of Google’s existing services. For instance, what better way to integrate photos than to use the company’s tried-and-tested photo-sharing service, Picasa?
Similarly, Plus also integrates Google Talk for instant messaging and Google Contacts too. This means Gmail users won’t need to start from scratch the first time they log into Plus.The home screen consists of friends’ lists on the left and a news feed called ‘Stream’ in the centre. Just like Facebook, the latter comprises status updates, shared links and photos and videos uploaded by your friends.
The way Google lets you classify and segregate your friends is unique though. In ‘Circles’, you can arrange your contacts into different categories depending on whether they’re friends, family or as Google suggests, “epic bros”. Conveniently, you can drag and drop your contacts into their appropriate circles.
Photos albums are integrated with Google Picasa and automatically expand when you hover the mouse pointer on them. This allows for a quick look into albums without actually entering them.The next big feature comes in the form of multiple-user video chat, ‘Hangout’. As a comparison, Facebook,which has newly tied up with Skype, only offers one-on-one video chatting. Hangout definitely has the upper edge.The last major feature, Sparks, is essentially a news feed catering to your interests and hobbies. For example, if you place ‘indie music’ in the list, Spark looks up Google News and provides the latest updates available.
There’s also a free Google+ app for Android mobile users. The interface is minimalist and it’s easy to get around. The standout feature, Huddle, lets you send messages to your contacts/circles on Plus. For now though, you can only share messages, and not photos or videos.
It’s important to note that Google+ is still in field trial mode and more features may be added before the product is released to the public. Still, the way Google has incorporated its existing services like News, Picasa and Contacts is interesting. But whether Plus will have the same fate as Buzz or Wave is left to be seen.