Going back to the beginning of time, humans have always banded together in social groups or “circles”. These social circles include families, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and people who share similar interests.
Recreating this type of social grouping online has proven to be somewhat of a challenge. Generally speaking, sharing information with others in your circle has been somewhat of a shotgun approach wherein you either share all your information with everyone, or no information at all.
Twitter has tried to enable a sort of filtering using their “lists” feature, and Facebook has tried to “limit” shared information by letting you categorize your “friends” into groups.
Google wants to try and simplify all that — and make online social circles do online what you’d expect them to in real life. Their solution is called Google+.
Currently Google+ is divided into several distinct “functions” or “activities”, all of which tie in with your social “circles”.
Google has rolled out various “roles” or “categories” that your contacts fall into and shares these categories across Gmail, Contacts, and Google Voice, but total integration across everything you do (both online and offline) is still pretty disconnected.
Google hopes to change that with Google+ — currently in a very limited, invitation only “field trial”. Google+ lets you add your contacts to social “circles” (using a very cool user interface, I might add), and share only specific information with people in specific circles.
Stream is essentially what Twitter and Facebook do, aggregating your friend’s activities and locations together into one continuous stream. Of course, you can post information to your own stream so your friends can see what you’re doing too. Hopefully this will integrate in some way with Twitter and/or Facebook so you don’t have to update your information in multiple apps.
Is the the reincarnation of Google Buzz? Perhaps.
One of my biggest complaints has been that pictures (or videos) that you take on your phone stay on your phone until you send them somewhere manually. This seems counter-intuitive, since most everything else on your smartphone automatically syncs with the cloud. (Eye-Fi, you’re missing out on a HUGE opportunity here!!)
Using a feature called “Instant Upload” you can tell your smartphone to automatically upload your photos to a private page on Google+ where you can share them with others, or download to a desktop computer.
No mention was made whether or not this will work with videos (though some of the Google+ videos imply that it will), or if 3D (in the case of the HTC EVO 3D) will be supported.
Rather than having separate conversations with several people over various methods (SMS, email, phone call, chat, etc.) to plan an event, or share information, the Google+’s Huddle feature lets you bring everyone together in the same space, much like a football team goes into a “huddle” to discuss the next play. In short, Huddle is mass-messaging done right.
Remember when you used to just get together with your friends and “hang out”? Google+ Hangouts lets you do that again, only virtually. Think of it as a kind of group chat where you can all be in the same room — without physically being in the same room.
Google will initially be rolling out a web app and Android app (already available in the Market), and apps for other platforms will follow. As we mentioned earlier, Google+ is currently an invitation only offering, so if you’d like to sign-up, hurry and get in line. Like most of their services, it will likely be first-come, first served.