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A Breakdown of Google+

on . Posted in Social Networking & Communications

google-plus Google has privately launched a new social media service entitled Google+. The service is intended to compete with Facebook, and includes a number of features that Facebook does not. The most distinctive elements of Google+ can be broken down into the Stream, Circles, Sparks, and Hangouts.

The Stream is the first thing you see on Google+. It is functionally similar to Facebook's News Feed and Twitter's Timeline, appearing on the home page of each logged-in user. It shows real-time updates from people the user is following. It contains a status update field which can handle text, photos, videos, a link with accompanying description, and the user's location. Unfortunately, the automatic location detection feature only works well on mobile devices that are equipped with GPS, and not on traditional desktops or laptops. Posts that are made to the Stream can be edited at any time. This is a significant change from Facebook, where posts can be edited only immediately after submission. Also, users can select which of their posts can be automatically shared by their friends.

What sets Google+ apart from Facebook the most is its concept of Circles. This feature allows users to group people within their social sphere into different categories. Then, instead of having the same Facebook feed and access to everyone, it is split among the different Circles. This is convenient if the user wishes to keep their work, family, and social lives separate. Also, unlike "friending" on Facebook which is an inherently mutual relationship, Circle connections need not be reciprocated. This makes Circle relationships more similar to the concept of following users a la Twitter.

Hangouts are another feature that separates Google+ from Facebook. It is a group multimedia webcam chat similar to current video chat leader Tinychat. However, the interface is less cluttered and more polished than Tinychat's. Also, whoever in the group is speaking or moving the most is displayed in the center of the Hangout display. This feature could be used for business collaboration or simply for chatting with friends.

The Sparks feature groups the content of Google+ by topic rather than person or group. Users can search Sparks for topics they are interested in and receive an RSS-like feed of all public Google+ discussion on the subject.

These features separate Google+ from the competition. It remains to be seen to what extent users will adopt these features, and Google+ in general.