Google unveiled its new Google+ platform, a conglomeration of Gmail/G-Chat/Video, and some have already panned it as being a blatant rip-off of Facebook and some are praising it for its brilliance. Even this publication has given Google some advice as to what it needs to do to knock FB down a peg from its high spot in social media.
Are Zuckerberg and team scared? Nah! Zuck welcomes the competition, stating that Google is just "catching up." However, he seems to have evaded a few questions about the features Google+ has that the new Facebook/Skype integration does not.
Surfing around, we found various Facebook and Twitter posts wondering what in the hell Google+ actually was. We attempted to answer their cries of desperation, seeing as we had received one of the uber-exclusive invitations (9 million users as of today, we hear?), but quickly realized we had no idea ourselves.
Can Google really step to Facebook or will they become social outcasts? In an attempt to address some people's confusion (OK, our own confusion), Art Attack decided to take a Pepsi Challenge and taste test Google+ for ourselves.
Circle of Friends Basically, the idea is that you can create a circle of specific groups of people with which you want to share things. You can write a post and share it with only certain "circles" or your whole circumference. You can even extend that out to your circles' circles or the entire circular system. This is good if you want to hide any sort of babies out of wedlock from your family circle.
People can add you and you don't necessarily need to add them, but if you toss a post to your outer circle, they can view it as well as your "friends."
Location Similar to checking in somewhere on foursquare. However, when we posted our location, it couldn't find us.
Following Kind of like Twitter, where you don't necessarily care who these people are, but occasionally you find what they are saying interesting. Of course you can follow your friends as well and make yourself fully aware of all their goings-on.
Photos We got incredibly excited to see that you can download an app that instantly uploads photos from your phone to your Google+, and just as quickly realized it was only for Android, so iPhone users are SOL. It is rumored that this will be coming down the road, though. Sparks This is basically a Google search within a social media site, and you can bookmark your favorite "sparks" for future use. Naturally, you can instantly share the information Google just found for you on your page, but if there is a video embed in the link it won't show up in your post.
Hang Outs If IM chatting with your circle of friends isn't enough, you can have a video "hang out." Invite one of your pre-created rings to get on screen or type a name into the search to start a V-chat with folks not necessarily all in one circle. Of course the big thing is that you can chat with multiple people at a time. Have no fear, once you start Video'ing you can still invite other people to join in.
You can also share YouTube videos, which is neat, and you have the ability to sabotage another person's video by loading up your own (luckily 2 Girls, 1 Cup isn't readily available on YouTube anymore). What we didn't like about this feature was that it opens in a new tab (Oh, the horror of having to switch tabs!), and it would be nice to see what friends/family are currently online to invite them right into your hangout without all that clicking back and forth. For professional purposes, this will wind up becoming an invaluable tool. Goodbye webinars!
Plus One'ing This tool is either amazing or completely creepy. If you have Googled anything as of late you have probably seen a little "+1" symbol next to the link. If you are on Google+, you can recommend these links to your circles by clicking them. When a friend of yours just happens to be Googling around for a similar subject, they will see that you have recommended this particular link and perhaps it will influence their choice to follow suit.
The kooky thing is, potentially everyone on the Internet can see the things that you have +1'd. Google is abnormally vague on this, stating that these will be seen mostly by your social connections, but not always. Do you care if total strangers are interested in something that you are interested in and vice versa? Jury's still out on that one.
Naturally, Google needed their own "like" button, which is the other function for +1. You can also track all your +1s on your profile page in the event that you find yourself forgetting the things that you once said you liked.
Other Google Stuff If you are on Gmail, you probably already have a Picasa page. Now, with Google+, you can tag friends (like in Facebook), share albums and all the things you would expect. I'm guessing eventually Google+ will figure some way to integrate its features like Google Reader and others. How cool will it be when you can share your Google Calendar with your circle of friends that have no interest in knowing what you are doing at 2:30 p.m. on a random Tuesday?!
We posted on our Google+ page to our extensive circle of 22 followers as to what they thought of this whole business and got a few good nuggets:
"There are none of those annoying apps - i.e. Farmville, or whatever, to hide."
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"Definitely digging the separation of circles which FB never did very well. Appreciate being able to follow anyone, even at the expense of not being followed back (like Twitter)."
"I like that I can edit my posts and the chat function is definitely a lot better on +. TL;DR version of what I see on FB vs what I see on Google+."
"Feels kind of fresh start-y. So yes go ahead!"
So... are you making the switch?