A Sneak Peek into Google+

The next big thing or just another thing?

By , Columnist

Despite there being literally millions of social networking sites available, gamma-tanned teenagers, stalkers, and bored office workers worldwide were excited to hear that Google has now entered the social networking race. Literally hundreds of start-up sites appear each week and disappear just as quickly, but when an enterprise like Google announced its new social network Google+, everyone took notice.

Even with failed endeavors like Wave and Buzz in the past, the Internet has been buzzing with requests for an invite from anyone with the elusive golden Google+ ticket. I sought an invitation into the aristocracy myself and luckily received one. Always happy to infiltrate the elite, I started sending out what seemed like an unlimited number of invites until my invitation capacity, and everyone else’s, was revoked due to what Google called “insane demand.” Anyone with an unclaimed invitation has been left with a notification letting them know Google will be in touch at some indefinite time in the future.

For those who have Google accounts, Google+ pulls in your existing information: name, address, occupation, and anything you wrote six years ago and promptly forgot about. If you plan to use Google+ for networking purposes, it is important to check that your profile doesn’t still list your hobby as tequila and being into dragon tattoos. Not that I would know from personal experience.

The Google+ Project is not intended to be just another networking site. The web empire intends for Google+ to be focused on sharing with smaller,more closely aligned sets of people while becoming a central part of its already massive identity. Think of Google+ as another layer on your toolbar cake of Google mail, calendars, documents, photos, and news.

Google+ features a profile and stream similar to Facebook, but introduces new features with a cleaner design. Among the applications are Circles, Hangouts, Sparks, and Huddles.

“Circles” allow you to drag and drop new contacts into groups for sharing. The groups are divided into friends, family, acquaintances, followers and an option to create a new circle. I felt briefly indignant at having to classify people, but the same person can go in all four categories if you are equally indecisive.

Screen shot 2011-06-30 at 10.53.48 PM.png“Sparks” is an in-service search engine that shows featured interests one might enjoy; something like a marriage between Google news and Twitter’s trending topics, but with nice iStock pictures.
Screen shot 2011-06-30 at 11.21.47 PM.png

"Huddle" offers a texting feature for iPhone, Android, and other SMS devices and even allows for three-way texting. Not sure if this feature is useful or annoying as three-way calling only seemed to cause trouble for me as a teenager and when I need a break from internet contacts, I certainly don’t want them texting me.

"Hangouts" is similar to Huddle only it allows group video chat online.

The Google+ “Stream” is most like a Facebook or Twitter newsfeed for posting and seeing updates from those in your circles. Also similar to Facebook is the status update and photo and video sharing capacity.

Screen shot 2011-06-30 at 11.53.51 PM.png

The +1 button is similar to Facebook's "like" button and “lets you put your stamp of approval on content on the web. When you click the +1 button, your social connections will see your public recommendation when that page appears in their Google search results,” says the official Google blog. However, the +1 button is not available to Google Appsusers, even paying customers. Tech blogger Kent Newsome, an avid Apps user, “[doesn’t] understand why Google can’t roll features out to all users - including its most avid - at the same time.” There are still glitches to work out in this "work in progress" but a handy "feedback" box is available on Google+, which will undoubtedly be put to good use.

Social media can be a one-trick pony or become an omnipresent cultural reference in our daily lives. Although I do like the integration with my existing Google account, having only gained access to latest over-blown country club a few hours ago, it’s hard to predict which way Google+ will go. The next big thing or just another thing?

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Holly is a freelance writer and copy editor with a background in journalism and publishing. Like a grandmother's purse, she is about three decades old, worn around the edges and mostly full of crap.

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