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First look: Google+ lets you hang with a small (or large) circle of friends

Preston Gralla | June 29, 2011
Google's latest try at social networking could give Facebook a run for its money.

Google+ also makes it easy to share photos with others. You can make individual photos or entire photo albums available to specific circles or to everyone in all of your circles. Because the photo feature ties directly into Picasa, it's exceedingly easy to find the photos and albums you want to share. You can also see all the photos that others have shared with you.

Google+ goes mobile

Google+ was designed from the ground up for a mobile world, as illustrated by its very well-designed Android app. (No iOS app is available yet, but Google says one is on the way.) The Android app has a clean, straightforward interface that makes it easy to view your stream, manage your circles, see photos and so on.

In addition, the app includes several features not available on the computer version of Google+. You can create a "huddle" with friends -- a group text chat. And you can also take photos with your phone and upload them to Google+, using your phone's built-in GPS to include location information if you wish as well.

Hurdles ahead

As good as Google+ is, there are clearly hurdles ahead. The biggest one is the by-now accepted theory that the value of a network increases exponentially with the number of users on it. With an estimated 750 million members, Facebook has immense value. With only a relatively small number of initial testers at this point, Google+ has very little value. Even when it launches publicly, it will be difficult to catch up.

In addition, the very thing that makes Google+ valuable may well be the thing that holds it back from gaining the kind of popularity enjoyed by Facebook: the way in which you organize contacts into different circles and communicate in different ways with them. With Facebook, you simply accept a friend invitation or issue one, and that's largely it. Google+ requires a lot more care and tending, and fewer people may want to spend their time doing that.

The Android app has a clean, straightforward interface.
Click to view larger image

The bottom line

Google+ likely won't challenge Facebook for social networking supremacy, but for many people, it will be an immensely useful product. It adds a number of innovative, not-yet-seen features to social networking, such as Sparks. More important is that it puts you in control of what you share with people; lack of that control is one of Facebook's greatest drawbacks.


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