Trying out Google+

 
Rory Cellan-Jones on Google+ Hangout Chatting to friends via webcam on Hangout

For the last 24 hours the social networks have been buzzing with comment and speculation - about a new social network.

Google+ is the search giant's latest attempt to take on Facebook and prove it can be sociable. What we won't know for some time is whether it's going to be a hit or a miss - because Google has deliberately restricted access to around 200,000 people while it irons out the wrinkles and introduces new features.

The strategy is understandable. After all, Buzz and Wave crashed and burned when initial enthusiasm was replaced by instant disillusionment after users found those previous efforts at social products were either too complex or too intrusive.

But, having been lucky enough to get an invitation to try Google+, I've encountered the Catch 22 of social networking - it's not much use until all of your mates are there to join in the networking fun.

Still, I rounded up a few friends and colleagues to come and join me in Google+ and we set off to play. Once logged in, the first thing we noticed was just how much the layout resembled another social network.

"It looks just like Facebook!" exclaimed one friend.

And indeed with a list of status updates running down the page, a box at the top inviting you to "share what's new" and a box of profile photos to the side, it won't be difficult for new users to get the hang of the whole idea.

Rory Cellan-Jones's Google+ stream Does something about this look familiar?

The most attractive feature is the one that Google has been pushing hardest - the Circles idea which helps you organise just how much you share and with whom. You create various Circles - friends, relatives, colleagues - and then drag your contacts into them.

It's easy and intuitive, and makes you think about how you communicate with the different layers of your social life.

Then when you post anything - an update, a photo, perhaps a link on a Google map - you can choose which of the circles you want to get it.

This does, at first sight, look like a real improvement on Facebook's privacy settings - easier to understand and to manage.

The next thing I tried was another idea that Facebook does not have - group video chat. It's called Hangout, and the idea is that you announce that you're "hanging out", and then anyone in your circles that happens to be in front of a webcam can come and join the conversation.

I managed to assemble five of us on a Hangout, though four were actually members of the Google press team, and it seemed to work pretty well.

If you did manage to get lots of colleagues in different locations all signed up to the service, I can imagine that it might prove a cheap and cheerful video conferencing system.

Ahead of Apple

There is also an Android smartphone app for the Google+ network which I've tested briefly. It offers Huddle, a group text-messaging system, but more interesting is an option which automatically uploads photos from your phone to your profile.

That's an idea which Steve Jobs unveiled as a feature of Apple's iCloud service. Now Google has got in first.

So the search giant is giving two of its biggest rivals, Facebook and Apple, something to think about.

But if this latest attempt to crack social networking is to fare better than its predecessors, Google has to confront an even bigger force - inertia.

There are 750 million Facebook users around the globe who have invested a lot in building their profiles and assembling their networks of friends. Persuading them to move is going to be quite a job.

As for me, I've enjoyed the couple of hours I've spent on this new network - but I'm not convinced I will be spending a lot more time there until I can be sure of finding the same stream of news, gossip, fun and trivia that I now experience on Facebook and Twitter.

 
Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 35.

    Automatically uploads your pictures from your phone? Err, not too sure I would want that. If I want to share pictures with people, I'm quite capable of uploading them manually. I find it bizarre anyone would want that.

    I look forward to trying Google+ though. Facebook has become stale, long ago reaching the point of changing things just for the sake of it, knowing people will just accept it.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 34.

    Dear Rory

    After checking out Google+ and the resemblance, I don't find unusual or uncommon. Instead I find it consistent with everything humans do. We won't reinvent the wheel. Someone finally put together the "working mix" for a basic car to be reasonably functional. "Working Mix" being wheels, some steering interface, brakes, etc. Subsequent manufacturers should follow suit... or else!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 33.

    Sorry to burst your bubble, it seems you are reluctant to check the truth. Automatic uploading of pictures from phones is there for ages. Microsoft's Myphone site allows you to upload pictures taken on your old Windows Mobile to that site and the killed Kin phone had Kin Studio, which does the same. Current Windows Phone 7 does allow you to upload to windows live skydrive or facebook automatically

  • rate this
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    Comment number 32.

    Google got in first!!!../... Nope Windows Phone has done this since day 1.. Please stop being an Apple and Google Fanboi rory.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 31.

    Microsoft has put this in Windows Phone at launch.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 30.

    I agree with jamssx @ 8.

    Automatic uploading of photos to the cloud is not an Apple idea, just another example of their marketing machine which would have us beleive it is.

    Google did not beat them to it either, Microsoft has had this feature in Windows Phone 7 since its realease last year, which as jamssx says, posts to Facebook and Skydrive.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 29.

    So for me Google + sounds interesting, I'd not mind losing some of my FB friends, you just seem to acquire them without really knowing them.

    As for the comment above about groups, I think the circles thing sounds like groups, but am guessing it is probably more akin to privacy settings for individuals (as is semi suggested in the article) Groups on FB are rather rubbish...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 28.

    For me FB has stopped listening to its users, some of its latest features have been shocking (picture pop up thing, the removal of the post button, the really new annoying chat always shows as online unless you switch it off thing) For me FB developers are using it to try out new things and showcase their skills, and noone there cares about user friendliness etc..

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 27.

    When a company launches a product with the intent of trying to kill off a competitor it will fail.

    Google+ isn't any better than Facebook or Twitter and it doesn't do anything significantly different. Buzz Mk2.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 26.

    Will be extremely difficult for Google to shift Facebook, I think Facebook will only improve and adapt to whatever Google devizes anyway. Wont be much point in having 2 Social Networks. Thats why the other networks have deminished,

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 25.

    Inertia is easily overcome, especially with aggregation tools like hashable and hootsuite, which will collect and manage connections across and between networks. And this may become a far more significant issue for managing such things on the mobile web.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 24.

    Someone somewhere (Probably Goole) will develop a migration tool to feed FB data into +. This would make the transition easier which would scare most users

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 23.

    Don't forget there's Federal Regulators' antitrust investigation into Google's practices. Inquiry is expected to focus in large part on whether Google abuses its dominance of Internet search to extend its influence into other lucrative markets, such as mapping, comparison shopping, travel, & SOCIAL NETWORKING (?).


    \

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 22.

    Canada has most expensive roaming rates in the world – essentially double the OECD average of $13.52. It is not uncommon for Canadian travellers to get text messages, advising them that they will be charged anywhere from $10 to $25 (Canadian) for each megabyte of data used to check e-mails or browse.
    Don't suppose you could use your influence on that, eh?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 21.

    Consumers can contact the national regulator in the Member State where their mobile operator is based if they have problems or questions about roaming rules.
    Are you ready? Operators are free to offer cheaper rates: be on the lookout for better deals!
    Imagine a price that has gone down, way down! Which way is down? I can't remember, do you?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 20.

    Caps for SMS introduced in 2009, reduced cost of sending roaming text messages by 60%. Measures to tackle "bill shocks" (for net surfers through a mobile connection) were also implemented. From 1 July 2010, travellers' data-roaming limit is set at €50 excluding VAT (unless they have chosen another limit - higher or lower). Operators must send warning when 80% of data-roaming bill reached.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 19.

    About those roaming costs, hold on tight now because the shear shock may knock you flying: Thanks to EU roaming rules, the cost of making & receiving calls when abroad in the EU is now 73% cheaper than in 2005, when the EU first started to tackle excessive charges. Roaming prices are now (by July, 2011) supposed to be 35 cents per minute for calls made & 11 cents for calls received.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 18.

    Another major problem Google will have to overcome is that of trust. Facebook has shown time after time that it can't be trusted, but Google already has that stigma even before it starts its latest social-networking attempt. I don't trust Facebook, which is partly the reason I don't use it, but there is no way on this earth that I'll be using Google+.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 17.

    If your Google+ id is your gMail address, then millions of people are already, effectively, signed up for this (all Android users, to start with). I assume Google+ will tie in neatly with gMail, Voice, Maps, Picasa and youTube.

    And, if Google can produce a decent mobile app (the Facebook Android app is awful, look at the Market comments), Facebook could have some stiff competition.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 16.

    Perhaps I missed something revolutionary, but fb has groups that you can use to limit what you share and with whom. I have been using it for 2+ years. So what is new about Circles??

 

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