Google Plus – The Next Generation Social Network?

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Google+I was lucky enough to get an invite to use the Google+ Project thanks to Craig Beswetherick which is Google’s answer to the Facebook platform and my first impressions overall are very good.

When Google social tool Buzz came out last year back in May many thought that Google’s entry to the social market was tame (me being one of them). Buzz just did not have enough to it to warrant a usable social tool and unsurprisingly did not make an impact. I feel, however that Google+ will be a different animal as this time they have to make an impact to challenge Facebook’s and Twitter.

Stream

Google+ StreamThe Stream features all updates from friends in your circles (will discuss how this works below) and is much like the Facebook News Feed. It includes a mechanic to comment, share and use Google’s +1 button, which in my opinion is better than Facebook’s like button.

The stream feels smooth, incorporates pictures which can include location information and using Google’s Android application (iPhone version coming soon) you can directly upload video and images straight to your stream.

Circles

Google+ CirclesThe Circles functionality is by far one of the most impressive features of Google+, it allows you to transfer people into specific circles that you can create and using these circles Google delivers you a stream just for friends in that circle. For example adding your family to one circle and friends to another will allow you to see their content separately.

I found it very easy to manage my circles, all I had to do was just drag the user to the circle and they were automatically added.

Photos

Google+ PhotosPhotos is very much like Facebook’s photo mechanic and you can see that they have built a similar feature to Facebook’s new image panel that overlays the site. Tags are easily placed on a photo and tagged users are shown to the right of the photo. Users can also add comments to photos and as mentioned before there are a variety of ways to add a photo to your albums. You can upload through the Google+ Android application, add a photo by dragging it to a placeholder or just the old fashioned way!

Hangouts

Google+ HangoutsThe Hangout is by far the most impressive funtionality I have seen on Google+. This requires installing a plugin but once installed you can host a ‘hangout’ and have your friends in a social web chat!

The web chat has a few features of its own including the ability to search and play YouTube videos which people in your hang out can watch with you! A push to talk button is provided which allows the person playing the video to cut in to the playback and talk to people in the web chat.

Absolutely love this feature as it is not something Facebook have done and would certainly be something that could challenge the video conferencing tool Skype!

Conclusion

Google+ Hanging OutGoogle+ feels very smooth. It is intuitive, easy to use and integrates well with Google’s other services such as YouTube and Maps. Because of Facebook & Twitter’s market dominance of social sharing it will be tough for Google to compete as they have found with the ill fated Buzz.

There is still work to do however, as I feel that the profile pages could do with a lick of paint to make them a bit brighter and more welcoming!

It will certainly be interesting to see if people embrace the Google+ platform and what kind of API they will offer the developers but Google’s track record of API documentation and ease of use is normally very good.

NOTE:I have not yet had a chance to look at Sparks or Huddle. This post will be updated.

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