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They’re not standing around the watercooler, but Cheryl Sadler, Mark Meszoros, Mark Podolski and Nicole Franz are talking about what they’ve been watching, listening to and playing during their free time.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Google+, the new Facebook?

About a week ago, Google launched its next attempt at breaking into social media.

Google+ is the search giant's response to the popularity of such social sites as Facebook, Twitter, and even Foursquare. Upon launch, the only people able to access the social site were select individuals such as journalists and others who were given invites. As the site gained notoriety, more people were invited. Because of high interest, Google has turned off invites at times, meaning a small-but-sizeable network of individuals have Google+ profiles.

I was fortunate enough to score an invite last Thursday, and have been able to invite a handful of other friends to join me. At this point, I'm mostly connected to those few friends, a few others who had been previously invited, and a handful of people I know only through Twitter. 

Needless to say... So far I'm not that impressed.

Google+ does absolutely nothing my other networking sites don't already do. There's a live stream that mimics the Facebook news feed, status updates or the ability to post links or other media, chats, a check in process, and a mobile app. I can tag friends in pictures, +1 posts I appreciate (the equivalent of a Facebook "like") and create "circles" of my contacts so I can decide to share information with select groups of people. What differs from other social sites, at least that I've noticed so far, are the video "hangouts" where you can create video chats for any number of contacts in your circles, and a feature called "Sparks" that really mimics StumbleUpon in that it allows you to choose interests (music, movies, comedy) and Google delivers news bits or blog posts to you based on things you say you like.

The circle concept was leaked months ago when there was talk of Google launching a new networking site. The basic appeal was supposed to be that Google's site would allow more privacy controls for people who would like to share content. Users can lump coworkers together, friends from high school, friends from college, people with brown hair, people who have pet cats, or whatever oddball categories you want. (Entertainment Editor Mark Meszoros told me he was going to move me to "mortal enemies." I'm going to have to keep my eye on him.)
This is an image from Google, not one of my account.

The best part about circles is that you can just drag and drop people into them. It makes it really easy to organize your contacts. Of course, Facebook and Twitter both have list functions, but editing them is not as simple or enjoyable. However, I have so few contacts on Google+ at this point, circles have already lost their appeal.

What I do like about Google+ is the way it looks. It is clean, like most of Google's properties, and fairly intuitive and pretty easy to use. What I'm finding boring about it is that so few people are using it--and with invites down, that can't really change any time soon. But how, I wonder, am I supposed to enjoy a social media site when I can't actually be social?

My opinions, of course, are pretty rudimentary. I am certainly not a techie, but I have found it interesting to be able to explore this new development.

Anybody else out there using Google+? I'd love to hear what others have to say.

For a better understanding of what Google+ is, check out the Official Google Blog post about it. And for more reviews from those more "in the know" than I, click here, here, here and here.

Danielle Capriato |

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