With Google’s announcement of Google Plus, it finally looks like Google is getting its Social Network on the right path. In the recent announcement about the now beta-testing site, Google introduced 5 new weapons to fire across Facebook’s bow; these are as follows:
Circles - a really neat ’groups’ app where you simply drop selected contacts into a specified category circle - based on family, friends and other interest groups. Then when you want to share media etc. with this same group, you simply drag and drop it onto the same circle. A seemingly very usable and elegant solution
Hangouts - this is really just group video chat, with seemingly very clever software which centres on the active / noisiest participant involved. The demo looks very slick - you can simply drop in and out of hangouts - like trawling interesting gatherings at a party
Huddle - this is group texting - you can start a ’Huddle’ with one of your Circle groups, and simply blast spam the whole lot of them! - and vice versa of course
Instant Upload - an area where Google has distinct advantages over Facebook - piggy-backing off its own Android Platform and devices - allows you to set up some kind of loosely defined folder in the cloud - which your snaps get automatically uploaded to immediately as you take a picture
Sparks - the least interesting of the new introductions is simply a kind of interest topic filter - which pulls in pictures, videos and articles on said topic - you can then share said ’Spark’ with your various social Circle groups
It’s not yet clear how all these elements will be seamlessly knitted together, and how the overall profile and wall experience which Facebook is so strong on will be met / challenged.
As I said above, Google’s real weapons here are the Android Smartphones, Chrome Browser, Chromium OS and various other bits of soon-to-be seamlessly-interconnected hardware. With more and more people using Smart Phones and Tablets, anyone who sets up automated syncs for content upload and sharing is onto a winner. Google also has an advantage with its already massive GMail audience.
It will be very interesting now to see how Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon react. This is definitely a step changer, and much will depend on how slick and ’convenient’ the whole experience is. If Google comes close to what it seems to be trying to achieve here, I’m sure they’re onto a winner.
Of course that throws up all kinds of loyalty questions for me - I who am slowly drifting across to the Apple way of doing things, but I do keep one hand in Windows, and one eye on Android. My iPhone contract is now officially expired, and I’ve no idea what to do next, I’m for sure waiting to see what happens with the iPhone 5 in September. However, I know for sure also that the one thing that Apple does not excel at is Social Networks (Ping!). Will Facebook therefore cut a deal with Apple or Microsoft for a dual-pronged attack on Google Plus? Whatever happens next it’s going to be pretty exciting ride for all of us - I for one literally cannot wait to see what happens. Come September I will definitely have to make a decision; will I end up with 2 phones like most of my technically minded buddies? I sincerely hope not as I already have 4 portable travel devices in ascending order of size - iPhone, Kindle, iPad and Samsung mini laptop; I’m not sure I could do with yet more leads, plugs and accessories, my gadget life is plenty complicated enough already...
PS - for the uninitiated, the above visual is an overlapping montage of all the new Google Plus features, it’s the only way I could get it all to fit into a 480 x 480 image!