A brief explanation of the Facebook-like features that are being introduced to Google services with the launch of Google+
Google is conducting a 'field trial' of a range of new social products. The company is hoping that this suite, unlike Buzz and other attempts at social networking, will persuade users that Google can make improvements on its current offering.
Circles is the closest product to Facebook; it allows users to drag in contacts to individual groups. The aim is to allow people to share different things with different groups of people more easily. Google users will be able to add their contacts, or import them from Yahoo or Microsoft. Facebook does not permit the export of contact information to Google.
Sparks lets users share content from around the web, and suggests more content. The company calls it a ‘sharing engine’, like a search engine. Goduntra writes “Thanks to Google’s web expertise, Sparks delivers a feed of highly contagious content from across the Internet. On any topic you want, in over 40 languages. Simply add your interests, and you’ll always have something to watch, read and share”.
Hangout encourages users to share content within groups, being able to watch a YouTube video together, at the same time, despite not being in the same room. Goduntra likened it to a shared space, such as a pub, or a chance conversation with a neighbour.
Huddle is a group messaging application, that combines allows messages to be sent to large numbers of people, and is aimed at groups trying to, for instance, organise a night out.
The new services can be used via a new toolbar that Google is rolling out and at plus.google.com, and the aim is to get people to share their status as they would via Facebook. Mobile elements also work with Android phones and Apple’s iPhone. The company has also introduced a new feature that immediately uploads photos and videos taken with Android devices. If users wish, any update can also be tagged with a location.
For now, Google+ is by invitation only, and the company is keen to emphasise that it will evolve before it is launched fully to the public.