Daily Dose of iQ: What is Google+?

Jul 04, 2011 — Allan Pulga

The biggest tech news from the weekend? The launch of Google+, the online search giant's new social network.

"Welcome to the Google+ Project," reads the landing page for the new site, which features an interactive tour and an explanation of the site's key features.

Google+ is currently available by invitation only, in what the company is calling a "field trial period" prior to rolling it out to the masses.

So what is it, anyway?

"Google claims its new service is a dramatic rethinking of traditional social networking paradigms where, Google says, there's no good way to define our various types of friendships -- and share information accordingly," says Mark Sullivan, in a PC World video.

Sullivan says Google+ is made up of three basic concepts: Circles, Hangouts and Sparks. Circles is Google+'s method of friend management," he says. "It lets you form graphical circles of friends into which you can drag-and-drop new friends as you see fit.

"When posting content, Google+ allows you to select which circles can see that content. This is the service's way of managing information by sending it out to select groups instead of blasting it out to everyone.

"Hangouts is basically a glorified video chatroom," Sullivan says. "When logging on to the service, you can select to inform contacts that you're 'hanging out.'

"Finally, Sparks is Google's answer to social sharing. The feature asks for subjects that you're interested in and, after entering some interests, Sparks shows a list of content from across the web. At that point, you can pick and choose from among the content and share it easily with any of your circles of friends."

Google+ also introduces some mobile features for Android phones, such as "Instant Upload" (pictures are automatically uploaded into Google+) and "Huddle" (mobile group chatting for Google+ users).

Will it work?

That remains to be seen, Sullivan says. "Its Orkut social networking service is popular overseas, but has never caught on here in the U.S.

"Google's last effort at social networking, Google Buzz, was an even bigger disaster. Not only was the  purpose of the app    convoluted and widely misunderstood, but many users were taken aback by Google's willingness to add people to the service without their consent. The fallout resulted in several privacy related lawsuits."

Google has been under immense pressure to come up with an answer to Facebook, he says, especially with the rapid emergence of social search and social web advertising. "Google has a huge financial interest in entering this marketplace."

"Google+ is cool. But I don't think it's cool enough to get people to put the time into figuring it out," writes Dave Cormier on his Educational Blog. "It doesn't have the leverage (to compete with) Facebook."

Google_cartoon.jpg

What does Google+ mean for Google?

Google is competing not just with Facebook, but "with multiple companies across multiple industries," writes Semil Shah of TechCrunch.com.

"Whether it’s social, mobile, browsing, local, enterprise, or even search, Google is being attacked from all angles. And make no mistake about it, they are fighting back and fighting back, hard."

Shah explains that Google must wage war at six fronts simultaneously: as a browser, as a mobile OS, as a search engine, as a location-based service, as a tech enterprise, AND as a social network.

While Google cannot win every battle, the company will win some and evolve, Shah writes, redefining itself along the way. "Google is not going to go down without a fight, and it could take another decade for all these battles to play out."

Topics: Wireless Trends, Mobile Industry, Retail Marketing

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