Rumors have been swirling for more than a year about Google’s new social network to rival Facebook or Twitter. No, it wasn’t Orkut (the social network Google bought that is still surprisingly popular in Brazil, Google Wave or even Google Buzz. A couple weeks ago, Google finally unveiled Google+ (or Google Plus – there doesn’t seem to be consensus yet) to a relatively small network of social media and tech industry insiders and influencers. I was lucky enough to get an invitation from a friend before Google turned invites off and I’ve been able to test out Google+ (I’ll refer to it as G+ from here on) for a couple weeks now and I wanted to give my thoughts on the new network.
About a month ago, Google unveiled their +1 button in what seemed like an attempt to compete with Facebook’s ubiquitous Like button. I quickly added the +1 button to several blogs I manage so we could start taking advantage of people starting to use the +1 button. Google first launched +1 as a way to ‘bookmark’ search results that you’ve found helpful. For example, if I search for a Chinese restaurant in Indianapolis and one of my favorites comes up in the list, I can +1 it and it will come up at the top of the list next time I search for a Chinese restaurant in town. Pretty helpful stuff. Now, with the release of G+, the +1 becomes even more useful. Before G+ there wasn’t a way to catalog all the things you +1′ed (search results, blog posts, websites, etc.), but within G+, there’s a +1 tab on your profile page so you can go back through everything you’ve +1′ed in the past – making it a better place to store true bookmarks and pages you’d like to return to than simply liking a site/post/etc. through Facebook (since there’s no ultimate catalog of the things you’ve liked outside of Facebook.com).
Circles are the foundation that G+ was built upon. While you can add friends to different lists within Facebook, it’s a feature that was added to Facebook after many people joined, so there isn’t a great adoption rate for the lists feature within Facebook.
Instead of friending people like you do on Facebook or just following them like on Twitter, you add people to your circles in G+. Unlike Facebook, you can add people to your circles without them having to add you back, but unlike Twitter, by clicking on the Incoming portion of your stream (which I’ll get to later) you can see the posts of people who have added you to their circles that aren’t yet a part of your own circles.
In addition to a simple drag and drop feature for adding people to different groups, Google also has a suggested users section to the right of your stream where you can hover over Add to Circles and easily add people to your circles.
You can also easily view content from and share content with specific circles very easily with G+. Say you want to share some photos with just people in your Family circle, it’s simple to do. If you want to share a link to an article with friends from work or share a photo with friends from college, you can do that as well.