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Google + The Next Big Thing in Social Networking

google buttonBy Guest author  XanthusKidd

Google Plus has a very clean looking interface that’s not entirely dissimilar to Facebook. It keeps the new Google toolbar that is normally displayed on Google’s search site at the top of the screen, but changes the icons around to give you access to more collaborative items (Gmail, Calendar, Documents, etc.).

Google+ Contacts and Circles

One of the major changes from Facebook consists of the way that G+ handles your contacts. In Facebook, you only have the option to add people as “Friends.” Once you’ve done that, you can group them and play with settings, but it’s quite complicated and easy to miss the minute details. In G+ you add people to circles, and whenever you post anything, you choose which circles see the info. It’s incredibly easy and very smooth. Much of G+ is drag-and-drop capable, so the interface is very easy to use.

Your Google +  WebPage

When you first open G+ after creating your profile, you are greeted by a three column webpage, like Facebook. The far left column displays your profile picture and name, your various “Stream” options, your “Sparks,” and the chat dialog box.

  • A “Stream” is like a news feed in Facebook. It shows all of the posts from the people in that circle. You can specify what you see in your main feed by narrowing the feed down to different circles.
  •  A “Spark” is an interest of yours. When you want to be kept up to date on something on the web, merely search for that term in the sparks search bar and add it to your interests. You will be notified whenever anything new is posted on that topic.

The center column is much like Facebook’s “News” column; this is your main stream. At the top of this column resides the option to “Share what’s new…” via text, photo, video, or link.

  • The status box is very similar to Facebook, and gives all of the same options, although there are some improvements. The link option is the most noticeable change. If you post many links, you will like this option. Not only can you choose what picture it pulls from the website, you can remove the summary statement as well. The photos and videos buttons give you the option to drag-n-drop to create an album, and the video button allows you to post YouTube videos. You can also share photos directly from your phone, using your PC, if you have an Android phone.

The right column shows the people in your circles, suggestions of people you might know, the “Hangout” option, and some other options from Google.

  • The “Hangout” option is, while not revolutionary, a very solid and nicely put together option. You can text chat, video chat, watch YouTube videos simultaneously, and host and participate in video conferencing. One of the convenient, and slightly amusing, features of G+’s video conferencing is the option to mute individual people.

Your profile on G+ provides all of the standard options, plus the ability to link accounts from Facebook, Yahoo, Flikr, and others. You can also modify each aspect of your profile to set which circles can see what. You can change the visibility of tabs (such as your photos and videos) and allow only certain people to see them. That infamous +1 button that’s popped up everywhere on the internet is finally showing its worth. Everything that you’ve +1’d shows up on your profile under the +1 tab.

Google + Photo Album Feature

The photo album feature in G+ is greatly improved from Facebook’s. If you have used Google Picasa then you will be familiar with the album view option in G+. It shows one main photo with all of the others down at the bottom of the screen, allowing you to browse an album easily without constantly exiting the photo viewer.

Google + Notifications and Takeout systems

The last features that I’ll cover are the Notifications and Takeout systems. The notification box in the top right corner of your screen shows a number that corresponds to however many new notifications you have. When you click on it, it opens a drop down box in which you can read and respond to the notifications. You also have the option of opening all of your notifications on one page.
The Takeout feature is a backup system for your account. It allows you to download all of your data as a zip file and store it in case anything ever happens to your Google account.

Google + Performance

Right now, G+ is very fast and seems to be quite stable. The best option seems to be using it with Google Chrome, although I haven’t had any problems with Firefox 5. My main browser is Opera, and there are quite a few glitches and unusable features (namely notifications and drag-n-drop.)

Google +  My Take on the Future

I think that Google Plus has a very good chance of becoming the next big thing. If Google plays their advertising right, and markets towards the younger crowd, I think that they will have a viable and strong social networking community. The main features missing right now are the options for business and website accounts, like Facebook’s Pages. If Google builds those in, I think they can compete quite well with Facebook.

Hold on Facebook, you’re in for a fight; there’s a new kid on the block, and he’s cool.

Related post found in this blog:
Google +1 Buttons for Bloggers

Visit XanthusKidd’s two blogs:
XanthusKidd – A Recreational Read
Squared Away – The Comic!

29 thoughts on “Google + The Next Big Thing in Social Networking

  1. XanthusKidd & TT-This is a good post. I wonder why so many people want to disguise their real name if the likes of G+ insist on it. Its a different matter that many social networking sites give you the option of using a nickname and I thought it was merely for fun & creativity that you get to do it. I have always believed in using real name & real photo [may be edited for gravatar but clear enough to show the real me]. A sfor the popularity of G+, there are already articles suggesting that G+ will possibly kill Twitter: Why Twitter is Obsolete.

    Enjoyed posting here : )

    • After a person, who was very close to me, became a victim of identity theft and went through 18 months of a living hell, I chose to blog under a pseudonym. My real name is known to Admin on every site am registered with. My personal email address is also known to them and my domains are not masked domains. The point is that I have spent years building a blogging brand under a pseudonym “imethief”. If I were compelled to use my real name, which is extremely common name, it would only lead to confusion at this point in time. Also note that I don’t wish to be a menber of Facebook or of Google+ at this point in time.


    A reaction from the library world who have to educate library users how to use the Internet effectively and wisely.

    I just haven’t taken time to explore Google +. I’m approaching some of the search engine variants and how time I will spent learning: does it have direct value to my job?

    And the answer is no because our organization, like many others are within a network firewall.

    • Hi Jean,
      It’s always good to here your approach to decision making. I think many bloggers are inclined to jump to join every new social networking site there is without carefully considering what neberfits there may or may not be. In this case one would be dull of wit not to get the fact that those who join are the products Google will market.

  3. Very interesting post and thank you so much for the valuable information! I am on G+ and have decided to take it very slowly indeed, keeping it small and simple while working my way through just how I want it to work for me. Facebook often has me feeling that I am lost in a noisy crowd and I am not too happy about how it “keeps” my photos.

    Good luck with the moniker issues!

      • Hey TiTi,

        I should have mentioned just how slowly and simply I am taking it having accepted the invite to join – I am now the proud half of a circle of . . . two! More than happy enough to keep it that way for now as I make pro-active attempts to trim and bring to order so many untidy strands of access. Having said that, I am sitting here now glued to Twitter which seems to be ahead of the BBC in what is happening in London at the moment.

        All best to you in lovely BC!


        • Hi Patti,
          Best wishes with Google +. May your circle grow at exactly the right pace for you and be populated with people you like to communicate with. The events in the UK are so disturbing. From this side of the pond they are frightening so I can imagine that close up the impact is quite awful.
          All the best,

  4. XanthusKidd – Thanks so much for this overview of Google+. Naturally, I’m curious. I enjoy my Facebook Page a lot though. So without that feature, it’s less appealing to me as I don’t need yet another social network. But I will probably try it out to see so I appreciate your well organized information in this article.

    • Hi Sandra,
      You’re quite welcome! I enjoy my Facebook page(s) as well. I’d really like to see that feature implemented in G+. Perhaps even if it were just a +1 button for a site, or an option to have a personalized Spark.

  5. Thanks for placing the Guest Author’s post on G+! Succinctly written!
    I have started using G+ recently. To me it appears that there are certain ‘better’ features in G+. What I found regarding G+ Invites is that there is in the right column, “Send Invites” and by clicking it, a separate box opens where one can write the email addresses of friends. Then only they get the Invites. By merely adding from ‘Suggestions’ some email addresses into the ‘Circles’ the recipients do not get Invites but are informed of the Posts that I make under Stream. Since so many variables are there for every feature, I am still learning.

    • Yes, thanks again for posting my article, TimeThief!

      I’m glad you enjoyed reading my article! As far as “better” do you mean better than Facebook? Thank you for the tips on invites and suggestions. Have a great one!

  6. XanthusKidd

    Thanks for this overview. I’ve been on Google+ for a couple of weeks and am still finding my way around.

    One thing that I learned today — the suggestions on the right side of the page are not necessarily people who are already on Google+. If you hover on their photo or gravatar you can see how you are connected to them. From what I see on my page, it looks like Google goes into your email account to find suggestions.

    By placing them in one of your circles a Google+ invitation will be sent to them.

    Thanks again for the fine post.

    • Interesting, I didn’t recognize any of the people in my suggestions box, so I didn’t explore it any further; thanks for the info!

      I’m glad you liked the post and I hope you continue to enjoy exploring G+! :)

  7. I’m already using Google+ and much prefer it to Facebook. At the moment it’s still by invite from other Google+ members. There has been some controversary about using real names instead of nickname but I’m quite happy to use my real name but I know others aren’t. For me it’s great that I can interact with a growing community of photographers, both professional and amatuer who are using Google+. All I need now is for WordPress to enable Publish to Google+ and I’ll be a happy person

    • Yes, there has been controversy over the demand that bloggers use their real names and Google’s policy is plainly stupid. If one has been known as “raincoaster” or “timethief” for years and years and has built a brand, blogs, contacts, and social networking reputations around that pseudonym then the demand that we use our personal name on this new social network is idiotic. See here >

      Google has my secondary personal email address on my Google account and my WebMasters account. It’s an email address that close friends and family are privy to. I have separate email addresses for my blogs. My domains are not masked and whois searches reveal my identity but Google+ insists on me trashing 6 years of reputation building online as “timethief”, and expects me to start over by building a reputation based on my personal name, which by the way is a very common one, then Google can slam it!

      That’s how strongly I feel about the way they have treated long-standing pseudonymous bloggers, who provided both their pseudonyms and their real names and have their Google+ accounts deactivated for noncompliance. Without doubt, due to their asinine policy, I am unimpressed and hostile towards Google+.

    • Hi Mike! I’m glad you liked the post. :)

      I really prefer G+ to Facebook as far as site structure and usability. I still haven’t switched over, as most of my friends are still in Facebook. I hadn’t heard the about the name issue, I have two separate gmail accounts that I use, one for personal and the other dedicated to my blogging ventures. I’ll let you guys know if I have any trouble with Google not liking my moniker system.

        • Hey TT,
          I understand the mindset of Google, many scammers and people not wanting to disclose their real name will use Gmail accounts, which are readily available and easily established free accounts, as their main scamming method. It would be very easy for someone with a reputable account to slip through the cracks. I hope that the person’s account in question is restored soon. With a company as gigantic as Google is, their mistakes will be amplified that much more when they are made. Thanks for the article!

          • I don’t buy that given the information that they do have. They are full aware of the personal email addresses, and the personal names and tho who-is information, as well as the pseudonyms.

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