Google + Just A Facebook Wannabe?

Google’s new take on the social space, Google +, is a monster that is taking the industry by storm: the fastest-growing social network in history, it has already reached nearly 18 million users since it opened it’s doors on July 6.

Now, this isn’t Google’s first time to the rodeo, though they’ve had their ups (Orkut and YouTube) and downs (Google Wave and Google Buzz). But how does their newest attempt to take down Facebook fare?

Now, it’s only fair to mention that Google + is still a VERY new service. They’ve got some neat ideas, but let’s face it: the reason they started with a comparatively “limited” release was to get some users “in the trenches” so they can find out what works, what doesn’t, what needs to be added, fixed, or taken away.

It’s important to remember that Google + isn’t a social network, per se, but more like a collection of social services, all tied together under the Google brand:

  • Stream (news feed)
  • Sparks (recommendations)
  • Hangouts (video chat)
  • Huddle (group texting)
  • Circles (friend management)
  • Photos

Google’s stated intent is for these services to be an extension of Google (thus the name), integrating as seamlessly as possible into the user experience, rather than having it act as a standalone service.

One of Google + ‘s biggest strengths is “Circles” - Google’s version of Facebook “Friends”. However, rather than lumping everyone you know together - and forwarding any posts, links, etc. to everyone - Circles lets you organize the people you know into different groups. No longer will your posts intended for your college buddies be seen by your co-workers (for instance)!

Another advantage over Facebook is Hangouts, which allows up to 10 users to chat simultaneously…on video! While there have been rumors that Facebook is working on video chat, Google beat them to the punch, with a smooth, easy-to-use technology that, rather than you having to reach and harass your friends to come chat with you, you simply create a “hangout” where people can come and join you, and chat.

One of the down sides, though, is that the service is “noisy”: any time there is a new comment (from any of your circles) it gets pushed to the top of your Stream (news feed), whether or not it’s something you consider interesting or important, and there is currently no way to change how content is posted to your Stream.

A big issue is the lack of integration with other Google products. Currently, Google + does not work with Google Apps (which is a little strange) and (strangest of all) neither does search. That’s right: the King of Search doesn’t let you find content that your friends are sharing.

Pretty weird.

We knew there would be bugs that would need to be ironed out this early in the game, though, so it’s not like we could expect it to be some flawless, finished product. Overall, it will be interesting to see how Google + develops…and it will be equally interesting to see how Facebook responds to those developments.

Anyone out there on Google +? What has your experience been like so far? Let us know in the comments!

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