Google+, The Latest Social Network Craze

By Jason Poggioli
If you read the news at all you may know about the term “social networking” and if you’ve read the news at all recently you may have learned that Google has started its own version of social networking called Google+.

Social networking is simply a generic term for using the Internet in a way that allows you to share with friends or strangers whatever you wish. Facebook is the most commonly known social web site with nearly 750 million users sharing things with each other every day. With its user count rapidly approaching one billion people, Facebook is commonly accepted as the behemoth of social networking. In fact, it’s been said Facebook is to social network what Google is to search. This may start to change now that Google has entered the social networking arena.

Companies always look to ensure they have a defining characteristic that distinguishes themselves from the competition. For Google+, that market differentiation is what Google has called “Circles.” The concept is so simple and obvious it’s one of those ideas that has you smacking your forehead and wondering why it hadn’t been invented before.

If I decide to “friend” you in Facebook I send you a request to be your friend and I have to await your approval before we’re then “friends.” Once we’re friends on Facebook we can share things together. For example, I can post a picture and you can see it, you can post a status message like “I’m feeling blue today” and I can see and respond to it. Although there are ways to share things with only some of your Facebook friends it’s not very easy and definitely not intuitive. That’s where Google’s Circles concept comes in.

On Google+ when I want to “friend” you I just add you to one of my Circles. Google starts you off with one Circle called “Friends” and one called “Family,” but you can create as many as you’d like and name them however you please. In my escapades on Google+ these past couple of days I’ve created seven Circles. When adding people to my Circle I don’t need to ask their permission, I just add them. At first this may seem disconcerting, but it’s not.

Now that I’ve added you to my Circle I can see whatever you decide to share, but only if you share it with me (or the public at large). In other words, you have your own set of Circles (just as I do) and when you share something on Google+ you pick which Circles you share it with. If you’ve added me to a Circle and you share something with that Circle I’ll get to see it. But if you want to share something with a different Circle of people I won’t see it. Essentially this brings a level of privacy to social networking that has been sorely lacking for some time. If you want to share something with the world you can, but you can just as easily share something with a single person, too.

This differentiation that Google is bringing to social networking is probably the first feature to get noticed, but it’s not the only one. Google+ also offers a cool feature called “Hangouts” which allows users to create virtual videoconferencing rooms with the same control over sharing that Circles provides. I can create a “room” for a Circle or just two people. Of course, Google already has a slew of products online like its Google Docs and Picasa Web sites. Picasa is already tightly integrated with Google+ and I suspect it won’t be long before others are as well.

In the meantime, I’m on Google+ so feel free to follow me or ask questions in the comments below. I can also send you an invite to sign up if you’re looking for one.


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