Google has stepped back into the social network ring with the launch of Google+ (Plus). The new social network hopes to succeed where Google's previous Buzz project failed by creating a more natural way for users to connect. The focus is by first playing it safe through utilizing basic functions of sharing photos, chatting, and meeting friends. Google+ then builds on that with some unique features that rival Facebook's groups and text message blasts.
Facebook remains the social network king, and Google's initial offerings are still a long way from giving it any worries for the moment. But according to feedback from initial trial users, Google is on the right track. By focusing on Circles, Google+ allows users to create separate groups for friends, business, hobbies, and then interact specifically with only the people in those groups. This eliminates blasting out mass messages to everyone on a user's list.
The location, content, and group members can all be customized so users can share as little or as much about themselves based on their setup groups of friends. Users also have the ability to share items on the Internet based on users' interest and information inside their Google+ profile. Creating Circles on Google+ works much easier than Facebook, as users can simply drag and drop members into a group.
Facebook's privacy options with controls and permissions have not been very user-friendly. Google learned from this, and will try to take advantage of the situation with Google+. Google commented on its cleaner and less challenging privacy options, saying, for us, privacy isn't buried six panels deep.
Among other features, Google+ looks to include many other online services all presented in a newly designed interface for easy and intuitive functions. With Google already sporting popular services such as Gmail, Picasa, YouTube, and Maps, integrating them across a consistent platform through its social network would offer major advantages over rivals. Sharing content across the popular Web sites could be more consistent and easier with the Google+ enhanced instant uploads.
A listing of Google+ features include: Stream, Huddle, Streams, Hangouts, Sparks, Photos, Profile, and +1.
The Huddle feature is Google's chat system, through which friends can do communicate in real time according to their Circles. Its strengths lie in having group messaging, which could be a competitor to Facebook's acquired Beluga. The Sparks function allows users to utilize Google's strength in online search to find relevant topics and share them with their Circle of friends. The +1 feature functions similar to Facebook's Like and is purposed to increase interaction between online users. One of the site's specialized features called Hangout is a group video chat function allowing up to 10 users join in on a call.
As Google+ pushes forward, several challenges remain -- such as winning current Facebook users to join another social network. The unique offerings that Google has presented shows promising signs that Facebook will indeed face a contender in the near future. Google has also hinted of pursuing services for business clients with future apps and Google+.
The social network beta version will be by invite-only, and can be accessed through computers and mobile devices. A Google+ app is currently available in the Android apps market. The main version is scheduled to be widely available in a few months.