What's so Special About Google+?

Google has launched Google+, a social networking service they hope will compete with Facebook and eventually destroy it and reduce Mark Zuckerberg to the sniveling street urchin he once was. Google+, which can only be accessed by invited guests as of today, has stressed its focus on privacy, an issue many users still complain about with Facebook. What else is going on with Google+? Is it easy to use? What kind of features does it have? What does it smell like? Let's take a look.

Everyone is trapped in circles:

Instead of one blanket type of relationship (think "friends" on Facebook), Google+ has users create separate "circles" based on levels of familiarity. One circle can consist of family members, while another could be made up of high school friends or fellow Swift Boat veterans. Each circle has its own privacy settings, so coworkers won't be allowed to view pictures of your kegger and your family wont be able to see pictures of your secret family.

The black bar that follows you wherever you go: On top of every Google site sits a black bar that, once activated in Google+, will show your name. Anytime someone interacts with your Google+ profile, a glowing red box appears and shows you the update. The idea is that Google+ will always be close to you, asking why you aren't in your circle like a good little boy or girl.

Google Hangout, it's like a mythical room in which you chat: Hangout allows you and ten acquaintances to shoot the breeze via video chat. You are also allowed to meet up in real life, should you ever escape your circle.

The reviews have been pretty solid so far; Wired calls it "smooth, fast and intuitive." But as with any social network, the key is people. Can Google+ lure enough users to not only open an account but regularly use it to conduct their Internet lives?

That was a rhetorical question.

[nickgreene]


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