Tuesday was a big day for Google. The long anticipated social network from Google, speculated and leaked for the past year on all the major tech blogs, finally made its debut. Google+ is the latest effort by the search giant to gain a foothold in the space currently dominated by Facebook. Google’s previous attempts with Wave (lots of potential but too buggy and slow) and Buzz (failed from the start with privacy concerns) were utter failures. This time, there is an entire set of products within the service, each designed to bring social connections to Google in different ways:
- Google+ Circles: At the heart of Google+ is Circles. To counter the Facebook and Twitter philosophy of openness, Google+ users have to group their contacts into specific circles right from start. Twitter does have Lists, but they’re optional, and Facebook makes grouping friends too complicated. Plus, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg thinks Facebook users just don’t want to do that. From initial accounts, Circles are easy to set up with drag-and-drop and attractive animations.
- Google+ Stream: Your home base will be the Stream. But it’s not much different from the Twitter feed or Facebook Newsfeed.
- Google+ Sparks: Sparks is a topical search engine, where users can find content (blogs, videos, etc) on theirinterests in one central location. Users can bookmark their favorite items, share with friends, and comment as well.
- Google+ Hangouts: The first truly unique feature to Google+ that could really give it a leg up on competition is Hangouts. It’s essentially an open-ended group video chat that friends in your Circle can join at anytime they see a Hangout happening. Whoever is talking, Hangouts will automatically make their window the biggest. Friends can also share content with each other during the chat.
- Google+ Huddle: The other big feature that could help grow Google+ is Huddle, a group-messaging feature that spans Android, iOS, and SMS. Blackberry’s BBM users are very familiar with group messaging and the latest version of iOS (5) will also have a similar messaging feature.
- Instant Upload: Using the Google+ Android app, users can upload photos or videos quickly to their Google+ Stream. But oddly enough, photos uploaded here are not uploaded to Picasa, the major Google photo service.
- Location: Users can check-in to Places and geo-tag their updates.
Pretty much all the tech blogs got an early invite. These first looks have included positive reactions, talk about ease of use, and eye-catching aesthetics. People like this latest social effort and want to keep coming back. However, Google is being very cautious right now, insisting on calling it a “project” and not a finished “product”. It’s in a very limited test run, and invites are slowly rolling out. Whether Google+ outlives Wave or Buzz is yet to be determined, but it looks like for now Google finally has a social product to build and nurture. We’re certainly excited to test it out, but if you’ve have been lucky enough to get one, give us your take. What do you think of Google+ ?