Log on to Facebook and you will undoubtedly come up with countless complaints about the social networking service, which has over 800 million users. Although it is the most popular to date, users seem frustrated with everything from the layout to the lack of privacy it afford its users. This is why Google has stepped up efforts to compete with Facebook with the introduction of its own social networking service and website, Google+.
“Google+ aims to make sharing on the Web more like sharing in the real world. You share different things with different people,” explains a Google spokesperson (who wished to remain unnamed). “So we started Google+ to see what a Google approach to sharing would look like, and to see if we could come up with a better way of connecting with the different people in all of our lives. The features built into Google+ help people share in new ways, including Circles: Share the right things with the right people; Hangouts: Pop in and out of video hangouts when you’re online. Chat with up to ten people; Instant Upload: If you opt-in, every photo and video you take on your phone uploads automatically to a secure album in the cloud; and Messenger: Turn multiple conversations into one simple group chat.”
Although Google launched the service on June 28, 2011, in an invitation-only “field testing” phase, in September 2011, Google+ was opened to everyone 18 years of age or older. And in December 2011, it was reported that Google+ had surpassed an estimated user base of 62 million, adding an estimated number of 625,000 new users a day.
“We launched Google+ in a field trial on June 28, 2011, and opened it up to the public on September 20, 2011. We used the field trial period to listen to user feedback, work on product improvements and ensure the product could scale. On September 20, we were ready to open Google+ up more widely in an open beta,” says the spokesperson.
Google+ integrates social services such as Google Profiles and Google Buzz, in addition to new services such as Circles, Hangouts and Sparks. ‘Circles’ enables users to organize contacts into groups for sharing. And it is more private than Facebook. Although other users can view a list of people in a user’s collection of circles, they cannot view the names of those circles. ‘Hangouts’ are places used for group video chat. A maximum of 10 people can participate in a single Hangout at a time. ‘Messenger’ is a feature available to Android, iPhone, and SMS devices for communicating within circles. Sparks allows users to identify topics they might be interested in sharing with others.
According to the spokesperson, Google is still fine-tuning Google+. “We’re constantly working to improve Google+ everyday and listening to our users’ feedback in a valuable way to create new features that make their experience better each day.”