by Kristin Burnham

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

Jun 28, 20113 mins
FacebookInternetSocial Networking Apps

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.


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.


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

Google is also introducing an interesting take on photo sharing, called Instant Upload, in which photos and videos from your mobile phone upload automatically to a private album on Google+. This eliminates the sometimes tedious process of uploading your pictures from your mobile phone, and lets you access the pictures from anywhere. You manage the album’s privacy, and decide with whom you’d like to share the photos, if at all.

Next is Sparks, Google’s search and recommendation engine where you add your interests—for example, food—and view articles and videos from across the Web, then share them with groups of friends, if you want. These are streamed to you automatically, and are generated using an algorithm that takes into account what people are sharing via Google’s +1 button, among other factors.


Lastly, Huddle is Google’s Android and iPhone app that functions as a chat room. This feature, Google says, is good for making group plans—a cool feature, especially for times when texting a group of people becomes tedious.


The tone of Google+ feels a lot more mature; it appears to be targeting 20-something adults who may be tired of Facebook and are looking to move on in the next, more professional phase of their life, as well as targeting those who may have left Facebook or avoided the site since it places an obvious emphasis on simplicity and intuitiveness, which Facebook now lacks.

What remains to be seen however, is whether or not Google is too late to the game in unveiling Google+ and whether or not users will want another social network to subscribe to.

What do you think of Google’s new social network? Will you give it a try or skip it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.