Despite various failed attempts in the past, Google is taking another stab at creating a social platform to rival Facebook. Their latest creation is called Google+ and it hopes to bring the "nuance and richness" of real-life sharing and connections to our online world. Unlike Facebook, where all your connections are simply deemed as "friends" and the tools provided for making connections and sharing are very rigid, Google+ will allow for greater flexibility and customization.
Google+ comprises of several new features including Circles, Sparks, Hangouts, Mobile, Location, Instant Upload, and Huddle. The names can be a bit confusing as to what exactly those features entail. But here is a quick look video preview of the project and we'll go through each feature below.
One of the first features that makes Google+ unique is what's called Circles. We talked about this idea before and now its functionality is further detailed and confirmed. Circles essentially allows you to customize and categorize your friends list. In the real world we don't share everything with all our friends in the same way. For instance, you probably share different things with your parents, college friends, and your boss.
Hence, with Circles you can simply create a circle with a particular designation and drag and drop your connections into them. It essentially works like groups, so that you can share different things with different groups.
Sparks is an online sharing engine that will make it easier than ever before to find interesting things to share with your circles of friends. The engine delivers a feed of "highly contagious content" from across the web on any topic you choose. You simply add your interests and a variety of related content including videos will be delivered to you. This feed is also available in over 40 languages.
Hangouts sounds like a feature that lets you geolocate your circles for hanging out in person, or a feature that rates the best locations for meeting up. But it's actually none of these. Hangouts is essentially a live multi-person video chat feature that lets you virtually hangout. You can set yourself as being available, and when friends from your circles see that you're up for "hanging out" they can join the hangout and be part of your video chat, which could have multiple friends on at the same time. However, it's not clear if there is a limit to how big groups can get for these video chats.
Google+ syncs with your mobile devices and takes advantage of your phone's GPS, cameras, and messaging to make it easy to share with your circles while on the go.
+Location, location, location
This feature gives you the option to add your location to every post that you share with your circles. It is optional and can be turned off.
If you take a lot of photos with your mobile device and find it a hassle to have to upload them later, the Instant Upload feature makes life easier. By setting your permissions to allow Instant Upload, the feature adds your photos to a private album in the cloud as your taking them. You can then more easily access and share the photos from any of your other devices.
Huddle is a group messaging feature that lets you group chat amongst everyone within a particular circle. It's not clear if this is restricted only to text or if video and images can also supported in these group messages.
The Google+ app is available today from the Android Market and on the mobile web with an iOS app coming later on. However, the Google+ project is still in a trial stage and is invitation-only.