Google+ Quick Overview

I am truly curious. Yesterday I noticed the new black bar on the top or the search engine, but there was no much information about it, until news about Google+ started running around. To use the site, you will find it on that black bar, clicking on the “+You” link. As Google has done before, for now the access is only through invitations and it is not clear how long will it take to be open for all the public.

It looks like a social network with your profile and a news streaming. I have not had the chance to use it yet, therefore for now I can only write about some of the features that are public already, my opinion and wishes. A deeper analysis will have to wait until I try it myself

 

Google+ Features:

  • Circles: Yeap, some sort of groups.
    • The cool side: The idea of these groups is that you can manage your social life according to these circles. You do not have to have two different accounts to manage different images -let’s say professional and friends image. If you want to share something more personal, you can only share it with the circles that you choose. I am sure there are more than a couple of  “social drama” events that could been avoided in the past with this.
    • The challenge: Make the management of different streamings so easy that it does not mean too much work for the user.
  • Sparkles: Is a “content to share” search engine.
    • The cool side: According to Google is about “Nerding out”. I loved the concept because it is true. We do not share because we think our friends are interested, but because we are passionate about something and we want to show it to everybody else (“nerding out”).  It shows results driven by your interests, becoming a useful source of content sharing without leaving Google+.
    • The challenge: Transmit the concept to the users and motivate them to use it instead of their traditional sources of content.
  • Hangouts: Is a free group video-chat.
    • The cool side: Whenever you have some free time, you just post that you are available to chat or that you are having a conversation where more people of the circle can jump in. It is like if you meet some friend at the mall and you let all your common friends know in case they want to stop by.
    • The challenge: For some people have been complicated get used to the group chats, and many people are not that comfortable using video-conferences. Both things together in one, may take some change-resistance work to become popular, but it will happen and I am sure it will be very useful.
  • Instant Upload: Automatic upload of all your mobile pictures and videos to a private album.
    • The cool side: You will have everything in the cloud, as a back up and ready to share it whenever you want with an easy click.
    • The challenge: On one hand, we are still used to choose carefully what we upload -even to private albums- because of privacy terms and conditions. And on the other, the mobile data service providers are starting to limit the data allowance in some countries, so this feature could be dangerous for the customers affected by the limited services.
  • Huddle: Is a multi-platform group chat app for mobiles with a terminal in your computer through Google+.
    • The cool side: Multi-platform is the magic word. Keep contact with your friends or family without problems of whether they have a smartphone or the smartphone’s brand they use. It is like taking the best of BB (instant-always-on group chat), Whatsapp (multi-platform) and Skype (mobile-to-computer chat) in one place.
    • The challenge: People is already using those other services, therefore the success of this feature will depend on users changing to this platform. Anyway, this challenge is common for the whole Google+.

 

So, is this one more product of Google? Or does it have a bigger job in Google’s ecosystem?

If you spend some time researching about Google’s products,  you may become curios about why Google has so many great proposals, all in different sites and not really intuitive to find in some cases. In my first research, I found around 50 products (and there are many more if you go to the Labs site), all different, most of them with some sort of social sharing capability, but all independent from each other. So, why not integrate all of them in some sort of “Dashboard” or “Hub”, where all those independent products that have their own social network could get together in one. iGoogle looks like the attempt to be this “Dashboard”, but it is still missing the integrating social sharing features. These features are a must first to leverage the full potential of the synergies of all the products together, and then to motivate people to use it. This morning reading about Google+, I got the feeling that we are close to see something similar.

There will be tons of opinions about Google+ during these days. Many of those opinions will be about how bad is the idea of making another social network and a recount of what happened with Google Buzz and Wave. However, that is the logic and immediate reaction. However I would suggest to think deeper and look to a bigger picture and potential: All those products that Google has developed and we use today, may find in this site the opportunity to work all together, transforming what we may call now another “Social Network” into a HUB of linked products and services, with controlled social sharing features. Personally, I would love to see that happen and how far can it go.

 

Now what?

Keep your eyes wide open because it will be extremely interesting to see if the landscape moves, and if it does so, how it finds a new shape.

PS. If you want to read more about it, or try to get an invitation, here is the link.

 

Update (3/07/11):

I have been trying it for some days now, and it looks great. For now I just want to update that not all the features I talk about in this post are fully available, but I guess Google will release them in the next weeks. As far as I have seen, the mobile chat “Huddle” does not have the multi-platform feature yet. Besides that… so far, so good!

If you need an invitation, let me know in your comments with your Gmail username and I can send you one. Google Apps accounts do not work yet :S

A full review soon!

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