After a couple weeks of waiting I was finally able to score an invite into Google+. The excitement mounted as I first logged in and started to see what all of the buzz was about. More than most recent products I have seen, especially from Google, this product was actually greeted with good reviews and excitement from most people that used it, so I was curious to see if I agreed. Read on for the rest of my review.
After the initial login and the upload of my profile picture I made my way over to the circles area to start customizing the people that I knew. It is simple to do, and has a cool user interface for dragging people I knew into circles and then inviting others I knew into the program. It also allows you to group people based on how well you know them, but does not show this to the person you have added. Meaning if you add someone who considers you their best friend to the acquaintances circle they will not be able to see that you do not think of them the same way. This is an interesting way to manage who sees what messages, who is invited to certain hang outs and who can see whether you are online. Differing slightly from Facebook’s established platform Circles is a cool, albeit not especially innovative, way to manage and add new friends. It will be interesting to see how Google builds on it.
While there is nothing to crazy here yet, Google does allow you to customize your profile with all of the standard information such as name, workplace, photos, etc. They also allow users to see what you have +1’ed across the net as well. If you don’t know what +1 is it is Googles answer to the Facebook like button that shows up on all searches when you are logged in. I’m sure the profile section will have a lot more features as Google+ expands.
Sparks is another cool feature that is implemented directly from your home screen. This feature is like Google Reader, but based on what Google thinks is important for the keywords you put in, not your RSS feeds. Since I am very into photography I have “photography’ “photography contests” and “hiking” as my current sparks. When I click any of these it shows me recent stories for those keywords from around Google's network. I like having this in my profile, however the results that I saw were not that great for any of the keywords I have, so I hope this expands as the service grows.
Hangouts is one of the Google+ features that I really find interesting. This feature allows the user to create a hangout (video chat) and allow different circles to be able to jump in that hangout. The hangout is a way for up to ten people with webcams to all join a group chat and talk with each other in one easy to use area, essentially making a social network a little more face to face. I have created a couple hangouts and I find that the feature works well with understanding who is talking, as well as moving that video to the front. However, I have not used this with a lot of people all at once yet, so I am not sure if it would work well with many different users.
There are also some features that I haven’t tried yet such as Huddle for group chatting, and photos for uploading your photos to Google+. Another downfall of the system currently is the fact that the iPhone app has yet to be approved, so Apple users are not able to make easy updates on the go. The true test of this network will not be the users it gets but the adoption of people actually using this product. If I create hangouts and none of my friends are online to join, it won’t be long before I am back on the other social networks. However, if Google can find a way to get people to actively use this service, then they may have a winner on their hands in Google+.
What do you think? Have you used it? Are you a fan? Let us know in the comments.