Sunday, July 3, 2011

Google Introduces Possible Facebook Rival: "Google+"

Google+ is available on the Android Market and the mobile web starting today, and will be available on the App Store soon

Since Facebook's launch in 2004, it has established itself as an unrivaled social networking superpower. No one has been able to match its broad audience and number of features, but now, Google will give it a shot with a new project called Google+.

Google made the argument that existing online interactions are awkward and needs a "fix." For instance, in current instant messaging systems, someone may seem available on the list, but when you actually message them and they don't respond, you're not sure if they're away or not interested. Also, Google made mention that users mainly want to connect with certain people at certain times, but current social networking systems put everything out there at once and makes everything you say a "public performance."

To remedy these issues, Google has created Google+ which offers four key features that were created specifically for the user: Circles, Sparks, Hangouts, and Mobile.

Circles allow users to create multiple categories of family and friends, each within their separate circle. For instance, one circle can be the family circle, another can be best friends, another can be the basketball team you play on, and so on. This allows the user to share what they want with whom they want instead of sharing everything across the board.

Sparks is an online sharing engine that allows users in certain circles to share information based on their interests. For instance, if you have a circle of friends that are into comic books, Sparks provides relevant articles, videos and photos that give you and your circle of comic book-loving friends something to discuss and enjoy together. It allows you to "spark" a conversation. It also filters and delivers the most "contagious" content on the web, so the need for time-consuming searches is eliminated.

Hangouts is Google+'s version of instant chat, but is a face-to-face chat instead. Google claims that instant messaging is too intrusive, and that it always disrupts someone in the middle of something. But with Hangouts, users can partake in casual meet-ups in a live multi-person video whenever they have some free time, which lets other users know that you're really there (not idle) and interested in hanging out.

Mobile is aimed to allow users to communicate on the move. Features offered in Google+'s mobile realm are ways of marking your current location, an "Instant Upload" feature that stores photos from your phone in the cloud and allows you to decide if you want to share them on the web, and a "Huddle" feature that makes it easy for a user to use group messaging to get a group of friends together or exchange information.

Google+ was built from the ground up to revolve around the user, and to revolutionize the social networking experience by making it more similar to how we actually communicate. Google is only calling it a project for now, and while it seems interesting enough, only time will tell if it can stand up to Facebook's level.

For instance, Facebook already has some of the features offered above, such as Facebook's Lists and Groups that acts much like Google+'s Circles. Yet Google+'s Circles offers an easy drag and drop feature that may prevail over Facebook's system. In addition, Facebook has pages of interest that users can "like" and share information regarding that topic on that page, but Facebook's pages can have thousands of users that you do not know associated with that interest page, where Google+'s Sparks allows topics to be discussed among you and your circle alone.

Of course, both networking systems have a mobile setup and video chats. They also look very much alike, according to the screenshot Business Insider provided after being invited to the new field trial.

Google+ is available on the Android Market and the mobile web starting today, and will be available on the App Store soon. Right now, Google is conducting a field trial (hence why its called a project right now) where users can use the new features and let Google know what they think and what needs to be changed.

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