Google+, Google’s answer to Facebook, launched last week, creating a frenzy amongst internet users desperate to get their hands on an invitation.
Such was the huge amount of interest in the new hotly anticipated social networking site that invitations to join had to be closed down in a matter of hours.
That hasn’t stopped Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg from joining: he’s one of the few thousand lucky users who have managed to join up in full.
Those who successfully joined Zuckerberg as members of Google+ were greeted with a well-designed social networking site which some say might eventually overtake Twitter and Facebook altogether.
Google+ is centred around the concept of Circles. This concepts is a further extension of Facebook’s straight friending system, where you see people you know and send them the same simple friend request whether they are your best friend, your mother or your boss.
Circles, by contrast, sets your networks in circles, starting you off with the default categories of Family, Friends and Acquaintances.
Google+ starts your networks off automatically by showing you your contacts. Unsurprisingly, it shows you your Gmail contacts by default and then gives you the option to search and import contacts from Yahoo and Microsoft. There is no option to import your contacts from Facebook, although there is a (slightly convoluted) way round this: import your Facebook contacts into your Yahoo and then import your Yahoo into your Google+. It’s worth opening up a Yahoo just for this alone – without your contacts, it’s going to be difficult to have the full Google+ experience.
Once all of your contacts are in, you can drag a person into the appropriate circle. This is a visual feature that’s as simple as it sounds.
Updates are a key feature of Google+, much like with Facebook. You will see a stream of posts from your contacts, although the difference from Facebook is that you can filter the stream by the circles you want to see. Sharing photos is easy too, especially if you are already using Google’s Picasa photo storage and sharing site.
Chat offers more than Facebook chat: there is a Hangout room where you can chat with up to ten of your contacts. You can arrange your chat window into boxes, with each chat participant in a box, meaning that the conversation should be relatively easy to follow. There’s also the Huddle group chat app that works on the Google+ app on Android phones.
Accessing Google+ has been made extremely easy. Google have created a black bar which runs across the top of all of its services. This contains one-click links to all of the other services, including your Google+ profile, ensuring that users will be more connected than ever to their social networks.
It’s still very early days to predict if this will be the next facebook killer (probably not), but it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on, and already here in the NSDesign office we can see some of the immediate advantages (and differences) that Google+ gives us over some of the other big players in Social Media… Namely more private (internal) communication, and more control of the type of data we share and who we share it with…. interesting times!