Google recently launched a limited field trial of their new answer to social media. Google plus brings together a number of features you may recognise from existing social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter but combines them with a number of new features and improvements.
Google has addressed one of the main issues many people have with Facebook by adding what it calls circles. Unlike Facebook where you have to be careful with who you invite as a friend Google plus allows you to group contacts into circles, so you can have workmates in one circle, friends in another and clients in a third. As well as giving you control over who gets to see what you write it also allows you to select which circle of people you want to read about.
Google has also introduced a couple of group chat features, huddle and hangouts. A huddle is a text chat feature where multiple people can all chat. Huddle is apparently only available on android phones which is a bit annoying but I've been told is like a text message chat room. The real gem in the Google plus crown is hangouts. Hangouts allow multiple people to join a video chat!
The last headline feature is called sparks. Sparks is Googles way of finding you the stuff your interested in. You tell it what you’re into and it keeps you up to date with anything it finds relevant to your interests.
Google has been very interested in social interaction on the web and how people share information. Google has made it very clear that this is the first bit of a larger ongoing project. Potentially the end to this project could be much further away than it may at first appear and have a far greater impact on the web than just taking some users from Facebook and Twitter.
Google has tried to do social before and it didn't go well. Google has a habit of trying things out and seeing if they catch on. Googles "launch it and see" attitude has lead to a surprising amount of flops but while Google plus feedback has been mixed (at least among the experts we socialise with) there is a definite feeling that that there is something a bit different with Google plus.
One interesting point made in our office was that Google plus has one big advantage over Facebook, its use at work. Facebook has always been thought of as a distraction from work with many offices forbidding it's use (at least outside your lunch break). Google on the other hand does not suffer with this stigma. Many businesses and offices utilise one or more Google products on a daily basis and with Google integrating Google plus into all its products it will be very hard to ban its use. Combine that with the fact that Google has made it so easy to manage work relationships alongside personal ones we could end up with a social platform that is even encouraged by employers.
At worst this is certainly a decent alternative to existing social media platforms. Uptake will play a huge part in it success as a social media platform but many experts are wondering if this is just the tip of the Google plus iceberg. Google plus is still on a limited field trial so signups are limited. You can register your interest on the Google plus website