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What is Google Plus And How To Get Started With It – Part 1

What is Google Plus?

You might have heard the latest buzz about Google Plus [1], a completely new social network from Google which was launched a couple of weeks ago. Google’s earlier social experiments (Google buzz and Google Wave) failed but looking at Google Plus, I think they have got it right this time.

So, what is Google Plus and how does it differ from other social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Friendster or hi5?

Google Plus is tightly integrated with other Google services and a lot of experts claim that it is more engaging and compelling than Facebook and other similar social sites. Google wants to provide a rich social experience to users by creating an environment which encourages easier social connection and sharing.

Here is what the basic user interface of Google Plus looks like:

Google Plus User interface

Plus is still in it’s early testing stages, so signing up for an account is not possible at the moment. Google has deployed their social network on a field trial basis and users can only create an account if they have an invitation. If any of your online friends have a Google plus account and they send you an email invitation, you will be in.

Google Plus Circles

Google has taken the concept of friend lists to the next level by introducing “Circles”.

A circle is nothing but a friend list which can be used to organize your friends, colleagues, family members, online contacts and other friends into different groups. A person can be present in multiple circles but note that a circle cannot contain another circle within it.

Here is how circles in Google plus look like:

Using Google plus Circles

Once you are done with creating circles on Google plus, you can quickly filter updates and posts from specific circles on your Google Plus timeline. This helps reduce the social noise to some level and helps you keep a healthy balance between different friend groups. The idea is neat and its definitely better than Facebook friend lists.

Google Plus Hangouts

Another very exciting feature of Google plus is Hangouts. In fact, Google Plus is the first social network which has introduced the concept of video chatting with social friends.

Hangouts are virtual rooms where you can start a video chat with one or more people in your circles. You will need a microphone, a headphone and a webcam to join or initiate a Google plus hangout. Most laptops come with all these three accessories in built, so the tech specifications should not be a concern. Here is how the hangout window of Google Plus looks like:

Google plus Hangouts

Once you have joined a hangout with friends, you will be able to see them on your computer and talk to them using your microphone. Friends in your circles will be able to see that you are hanging out with someone and they can request to join in – it’s a really fun way to engage and communicate with multiple social friends, all at one place.

In addition to Circles and Hangouts, Google Plus has a lot of other features e.g huddles, Sparks, real time notifications and instant upload of photos from your mobile. We’ll explore in detail about those features in our upcoming article, so stay tuned for more!

~Amit Banerjee