If you visit the Google search page today on your desktop or laptop computer, it will likely look like the screenshot you see here.
A big blue hand-drawn arrow leads from the Google logo in the centre of your screen to the top-left corner, pointing to the word "+You."
That’s Google+ (say it "Google Plus"), the new social network that Google opened up to the world yesterday after some months in private testing, what Google called a field trial. I was an early user and have been getting to know Google+ since July, enjoying the raft of enhancements and new features that Google rolled out during this time, right up to the 100th – universal access.
If you look around and search for commentary and opinion about Google+, you’ll find plenty, from the credible overview to the upbeat on Google+ for business and to privacy and other concerns. There are even a few books in the works that will attempt to explain what to get out of the service in such an evolutionary early guise.
- Watch Google’s quick-look video that explains what Google+ can do for you. Pay attention especially to Circles and how they work (or watch the stand-alone video)
- Sign up and try Google+ for yourself.
- Add some people already there to a Circle of your own. An easy way: tell Google+ who your contacts are and it will find people you know. Or search by name.
One of the key differences between Google+and Facebook concerns connecting with people. The original Facebook model is about being friends with someone: you connect with them by asking them to do that. With Google+, you add someone to a Circle: you don’t have to ask them first (a move Facebook also made last week with its new ‘subscribe’ feature). In that sense, it’s similar to how Twitter works.
One feature I especially like is Hangouts, the video-chat service. I’ve been using it quite a bit recently, both for personal and business uses. Easy to use and the simplicity of use as well as the quality of the experiences has dramatically improved since its introduction.
There are also excellent mobile apps for Android and iPhone so you can use the service from anywhere.
Google+ attracted millions of early adopters during the field trial. Many of those typically are the geeky type. Now that the service is open to anyone to join, I’d expect the broad community to become far more homogenous, more representative of people generally.
But who knows? Maybe it will stay niche. Or maybe it will explode into the mainstream. Me, I’m going to pay attention to how it all works and what I can do with it, be there and enjoy the ride.