by Antonio Lenyear
On June 28, Google Inc. launched a new social networking service, Google+, in a beta testing phase, so only those with invitations could join the site. After only four weeks, the social media site had amassed 25 million users.
Associate Professor of Media Studies, Dr. Danielle Stern, started using Google+ during its launch week, but currently checks it only a few times a week, as opposed to more consistent use of Twitter and Facebook.
“Google+ had a huge early growth, but it appears many users, including myself, are stalled trying to figure out the idiosyncrasies and benefits of Google+,” said Stern.
How to get it
In order to receive an email invitation and create a profile on the Google+ site, users must have a Google mail account and provide and display their real name. Refusing to display your actual name is a violation of the terms of service and may result in account suspension. Even without an account, it is possible to see content that users have published as public.
Circles, sparks and hangouts
There are three major components of the site: Circles, Sparks and Hangouts. Circles uses a drag-and-drop interface which allows people to locate friends, family, coworkers, etc. and arrange them in various groups for specific targeted sharing, so “you share the right things with the right people,” says the site. The design organizes virtual, online connections and relationships just as we do in real life. Critics dislike Circles’ automatic acceptance policy, which does not require approval or confirmation of relationships. Each post can be selectively screened to specific groups, giving the user control over who sees what.
The Sparks feature allows users to flag topics that interest them, which then targets web traffic related to those areas.
Hangouts is a feature that hosts larger group video chats (up to 10 people per group). Additionally, members of the chat can share and gather around YouTube content by selecting the share button below each video.
The +1 button, found below most Google searches, is a cross-integrated feature that illustrates internet popularity by allowing people to show approval and recommend sites to other users.
As a social media enthusiast and G+ user myself, I consider the site to be a unique merger of all our favorite social media features. The Stream, similar to Facebook’s news feed, is a place for multiple types of communication with no character limit. Users can issue updates like Facebook statuses, tagged snippets like tweets and long-form posts with embedded media like Tumblr or WordPress blogs all in one stroke.
Although the lasting impact of Google+ remains to be seen, it has already had some influence on Facebook’s services, as evidenced by the new video chatting, photo display and sharing indicator.