What You Need to Know About Google's New Social Network

While the similarities between Facebook and Google+ are obvious, Google's new network may make it a contender in the social media arena. Here's a look at the features it unveiled today.

After all the hype surrounding its place in the world of social networking, Google finally rolled out its top-secret social network today, called Google+, currently operating in a very limited beta.

Google, which had previously admitted its inefficiencies in the realm of social media, especially following the failed Google Buzz project, appears to be forging full steam ahead in pursuit of Facebook.

But the differences between Facebook and Google+ are apparent: While Facebook focuses heavily on sharing among large groups of friends, Google+ instead targets smaller social groups. Google also appears to be targeting a more mature audience, and emphasizes how Google+ aims to "fix" social networking. Here's a look at the key features in Google+.

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Circles+ is Google's take on Facebook's lists, but is more visual. "Sharing the right stuff with the right people shouldn't be a hassle," Google says. With Circles+, you drag and drop Google contacts into groups that make sense to you—for example friends and coworkers.

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You can then use these circles of friends to chat, update people on what you're doing and share photos with them. In comparison to Facebook's friend lists--which you can create to allow various levels of access to your profile, statuses and pictures, for example--Google+ Circles appears more intuitive.

The second part to its social network is called "Hangouts," which seems to be similar to a hybrid of Facebook Groups and Facebook Chat. This is a place where you can meet with up to ten friends, using video chat, from anywhere. With Hangouts, Google is encouraging "letting things unfold," noting how adults tend to plan everything nowadays, leaving no little room for spontaneity. Hangouts, it hopes, will encourage more serendipitous moments.

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Sure, these unplanned moments sound nice, but I can't picture myself or my friends using a feature like this one.

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