The lowdown on Google+

The introduction of Google+ is by invite only, and since I only have a few friends on Gmail I haven't had the pleasure of receiving one. And if I did, the fact that I only have a few friends on Gmail to begin with means that I probably won't get much benefit from this technology - although if it's as good as everyone is saying it is, then it may only be a matter of time.

The best description of what Google+ does is social networking - an alternative to Facebook where privacy is relatively easy to maintain. There are several components, like the "Stream" which is basically status updates, links, personal information, Tweets, etc. Then there is "Sparks" which is kind of a hub for your own personal interests where you can find like-minded people and access information specific to your interest.

But I personally think that the biggest selling point of Google+ is "Circles" where you can create circles of friends and acquaintances to share information with. You can have a global circle for all of your contacts and separate circles for best friends, school friends, work friends, family members, teammates, acquaintances, and when you want to share something - a photo, a video, a thought - you can decide what circles to send it to. It's a great way to avoid embarrassment and share information in a more focused way than you can on Twitter or Facebook. It's also a great way to avoid receiving too much information from people you consider casual acquaintances.

Of course, everything is fully integrated with everything else Google does, so you can click on a contact to chat, Google Talk or video conference, link to photos on Picasa, share Google Docs, etc.

The Beta version released last week is only the beginning for the service, and more Google+ features are expected to roll out in the future. They claim to have over 100 new features waiting in the wings that will be rolled out when they are complete and we can also assume that apps for phones, tablets and media devices are on their way.

So what are the prospects for Google+? (And are they any better than the prospects of Google Buzz or Google Wave, which didn't do so well?)

There are a few big things working against Google+ from the get-go. For one, the beauty of Facebook and Twitter is that it doesn't matter what e-mail client you happen to be using, while Google+ requires people to sign up for a Gmail account. People aren't going to switch e-mail clients - or pick up another e-mail account on top of the six that they already have - for a service that right now is not as good as Facebook that only a few of their friends are using.


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