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First Look At Google+

July 8, 2011


Facebook began for college students, and anyone sitting in a college classroom today will see pretty much every student check their Facebook on their phone, laptop, or iPad, at least a couple times per lecture. When Google announced Google+, a new social network to rival the gargantuan Facebook, it naturally grabbed the attention of many college students. After all, we are quite thoroughly addicted to social networking. The question on everyones minds, however, seems to be, “Can it dethrone Facebook?” This post will cover some of the features that Google+ offers over Facebook, as well as some places that it comes up short. And at the end of the article, we’ll even offer you a free invite to join Google+ for yourself!

Google+ is currently in a beta phase, which means that it’s not yet a polished project. What’s more, not just anyone can join; first you need an invitation from Google or a current Google+ user. Invites have been somewhat tough to come by over the last couple of weeks, and some have even landed on eBay for up to $50! I’ve been using the service for three or four days, definitely not long enough to master it, but long enough to get the basics.

The Good

Circles

First and foremost, Circles is my favorite feature of Google+. Circles allows you to place each of your ‘friends’ in a certain category, such as “Acquaintances”, or “Family”. Using circles, you can decide who can see certain status updates, photos, etc. You can also easily filter which groups you want to see the updates of, meaning you can avoid having to filter through dozens of lame updates from people you don’t really know.

Simplicity

Facebook originally took off due to it’s simplicity when compared to Myspace, but Facebook has become increasingly cluttered. Like many of us, I have grown tired of Facebook’s annoying ads, suggestions, and the like. Google+ offers a much cleaner and simpler interface. Although the service is in beta, much of the software design includes a level of polish not usually prevalent in Google’s products.

Privacy

Trying to figure out Facebook’s privacy settings could cause a brain aneurism, but Google+ makes it much easy. A simple settings panel, combined with the aforementioned Circles feature, means that you can easily choose who gets to see what information about you, which is definitely something that many people are asking for.

Other features

Google+ offers several additional features that are pretty neat, including Sparks, Hangouts, notifications, and more. Sparks allows you to keep a list of topics that you are especially interested in (bands, sports, etc.) in order to find up-to-date information with a single click. Hangouts is an easy way to host a multi-person video chat. Something I especially love is the ability to view and comment on others’ updates or conversations directly from the notification panel.

The Bad

As I said before, Google+ is in beta, which means it contains some bugs. Sometimes a profile picture won’t show up correctly, pop-ups have issues, and for some reason blocking someone does not remove yourself from that persons’ Circle (a feature which makes basic sense to me). Another bad thing about Google+ is the fact that no one is really on it. Facebook has 500 million users, and Google+ is purposely limiting their users. In several months this could change, but don’t expect to give up Facebook anytime soon. At the same time, Google+ could be a great opportunity to ditch those Facebook friends that you don’t really care about, thus simplifying your life a little bit.

Conclusion

I think Google+ is a huge step forward. If it weren’t for the fact that Facebook was so ubiquitous, I would be willing to choose Google+ over Facebook right away. Even in the beta stage, Google+ is an overall better experience than Facebook, especially with some of the outstanding features discussed above. It will be interesting to see if it catches on once it becomes publicly available, because in all reality I think it deserves widespread adoption.

If you are interested in getting a google plus invite, leave your email address (Gmail only) in the comment section, or send TextbookStop.com a message on Facebook or Twitter with your email address.

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