I have been busy over the last couple months and not able to blog a lot so this review of Google+ is about 5-6 weeks overdue.
Googles long, rumored social product was finally announced in late July. The long rumored product was said to have been named Google Me, then later rumors had it named Google Circles, and in the weeks leading up to the release it was rumored that it would be named Google+ (pronounced Google Plus). It turned out it was named the later and not either of the former. Google Me is nowhere to be found within the product while Google Circles is. Here is my take on the product based on very minimal use.
Google+ goes back to the basics. Google+ is not about communication it is about sharing. In going back to the basics Google was able to focus on finding the best way for users to share things with the people they know and get friending right. A lot like Twitter, Google+ allows you to follow someone even if they don’t want to follow you. You have a stream of all items shared by your friends, you have different lists of your friends. By default you are given four circles: Family, Following, and Co-Workers. But it does not end there… you can create new circles.
You might be saying but wait, Circles sounds like Facebook Lists and Groups. Well, yes, but there are a few differences. Facebook was not built with either of these from the beginning. Friend Lists which were added to Facebook in December 2007 and Groups were added in October 2010. Friend Lists are supposed to allow you to send group messages to people within a list but it does not work without adding the members of your Friend List to a Group. This not only can get confusing but is a lot of work just to communicate with a group of friends and share stuff with them. On Google+, you can simply add your friends to Circles and if they are following you your updates will show up in whatever Circle they put you in on their profile as well as their stream. The best part about Circles is that there is not a separate area you have to go to send a PM to your circle you do it directly within the Circles interface and it shows up only for the contacts within the Circles you choose to make it viewable by. This is really nice. Also, there is no limit to the number of contacts you can add to a circle.
In conclusion, Circles was designed from the ground up with the idea that my Co-Worker Bob Smith, for example, will not be able to see things I shared with my family and whether I want to share a message or a link it can be shared with one or multiple of my circles at the same time and will only be seen by the people within those Circles.
Without a steam of some sort that brings everything together Google+ would not be worth anyones time. Just like any other Stream on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. the Google+ Stream shows you all updates from everyone you are following. Similar to Facebook, there is an option to share a message or link directly from the stream and you can share things with your Circles or specific friends directly from the stream as well.
As with Twitter and Facebook Fan Pages, Google+ allows you to follow people or eventually businesses without them having to follow you back. Of course, if the person you are following only shares things directly with their circles you will never see anything they share.
If you have used Google News at all you will understand what Google Alerts are. Think of Google Sparks as Google Alerts built into Google+. Sparks are good for helping you find things that interest you to share with your Circles. This is fairly straight forward not much else to say here.
Google Hangouts and Google Huddle:
These two things are not really that big of a deal. But then again they are. Hangouts allows you to have a video conference with up to 9 other people for free. This is huge and likely to be used heavily in business for remote workers who need to have meetings with each other. Huddle is a group text service that is actually somewhat related to Hangouts and can be used within a hangout to send links and other items to those participating in the hangout. The best part of these two features is you can only see items that are shared within the Hangout/Huddle from the moment you join.
Overall, Google+ is a very compelling social product that is long overdue from the search giant. I only have one really big problem with Google+. It is not yet available for Google Apps users and I use my Google Apps account for EVERYTHING. I refuse to keep a second browser open just so I can use my social network of choice, I will stick with Facebook until I can use it on my Google Apps account. After that happens, it is very likely that I will dump Facebook and use Twitter alongside Google+. That said, I doubt I will ever fully close my Facebook account. I think there is a better chance that I will just cut back on my Facebook use a lot.