Hands on with Google+

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Google’s initial attempts at the social networking game weren’t what you’d call a stellar success, which pales in comparison to the tech giant’s other accomplishments in the world of mobile and search. Still, they keep on trying, and in spite of the underwhelming performance and privacy issues with Buzz, Google’s going full speed ahead into social networking via Google+. Will they score it big this time?

Google+ is Google’s newest stab into social networking. One of main appeals of + to longtime social network users is its innate understanding of complex, real-life relationships – you have different sets of friends (work, gym, etc.) and sometimes you want to share tidbits about your life you’re not comfortable sharing with friends from work. Google+ Circles allows you to mix both of your real friends with acquaintances from work and business without worrying about your worlds colliding.

The main dashboard of Google+ closely resembles Facebook’s, with a main feed viewer in the middle for all the updates. You can filter the streams via your circles by selecting it on the left side, while the right side of the dash shows you the people in your circles, friend suggestions, and a button that initiates the hangout feature.

Which segues nicely into the next standout feature of Google+ – Hangouts. Hangouts allow you and your friends to have a video chat when the mood strikes you, and while there are multiple clients and programs that allowed you to do this before, the convenience of having it paired up with your social network provides a convenient portal to do it from. Another nice feature of Hangouts is that it allows co-viewing of content, like a YouTube video, for example. Now you don’t have to imagine your friends’ bewildered reaction to being linked to Nyancat or any other pointless meme that you come across – you can see the annoyance in their face in real time.

And since + is just one of the many other services Google has, they’re able to integrate + into Google search, mail, calendar, docs and YouTube – as long it’s Google, it’s on there. And to be perfectly honest, aside from the privacy concerns with Buzz that were quickly rectified, Google has a better track record when it comes to privacy and content when compared to Facebook.

Finally, Google has managed to learn from its mistakes with Buzz, and has made Google+ the hottest nightclub in the social space. Instead of making everyone with a Google account a member (like what happened with Buzz), you now have to be invited by someone who has a Google+ account before you can get in. Google says this is because + is at a limited trial period for now, but it makes perfect marketing sense – make something exclusive (or have it put an air of exclusivity) and people will line up to have a taste. Facebook better watch out – Google’s out to win this time around.