You may have noticed the sudden colour change in your navigation bar when using Google.com. No, this isn’t a new customization setting allowing you to customize the look and feel of Google. This is a black horse that will take you for a ride into the wonderful world of the Google+ Project.
Huh? Google+? No, not the +1 button, but something much bigger than that. Google+ is the top secret project developed by Google over the past year. A project developed with the goal of taking aim at products and connecting them with a much more social focus. It’s important not to confuse Google+ as a standalone social product, but rather to envision it as an extension of Google itself. Hence the Google+ name.
Vic Gundortra, the lead on Google+, has said that “We believe online sharing is broken. And even awkward. We think connecting with other people is a basic human need. We do it all the time in real life, but our online tools are rigid. They force us into buckets – or into being completely public. Real life sharing is nuanced and rich. It has been hard to get that into software.”
The Google+ Project: Circles
The first thing that users are likely to interact with is something called Circles. Through Circles users are able to select and organize contacts into groups for targeted sharing. Adding people to Circles is easy. Google will present you with a list of contacts they recommend to you, pulled from your Gmail account and/or your Google Contacts, allowing you to drag people into Circles you specify. It’s that simple. Google clearly went for use of use with the UI, a step that seems to have been missed when it comes to other sites such as Facebook, and the group results speak for themselves.
When it comes to the reasoning behind the new toolbar, it really came down to keeping things simple for the user. Various websites have different ways you can share with others, and the toolbar is an attempt to unify them. The plan is for the toolbar to be present across all Google properties, though this will clearly take time to roll out. Eventually we can envision things such as browser extensions, mobile adaptations, etc. It’s important to remember that this is only the first step of many.
The Google+ Project: Sparks
Google+ also has a feature called “Sparks”. Even though this is a search box, this isn’t a new form of search engine. Instead, Google has referred to it as a “sharing engine”. And of course great content leads to great conversions. With Sparks, you are able to enter an interest you have and Google searches elements throughout the web, presenting you with results that that they think you’ll care about most. These can be things such as blog posts, videos, books – any sort of search available through Google. If you do see something that you like, you’re able to click the particular item and add it to an interest list, where it will remain present and quickly referable, sort of like a bookmark. You can also see what others are liking and talking about globally within a “Featured interests” area.
Google has said that their goal is to connect people. These days everyone has a camera in their pocket. Google+ also has an Instant Upload feature, relying on the use of an Android device to take photos for shoot video. An app will be able to pull this content and automatically upload it to Google+ in the background, storing it in a private albumyou’re your review later on. You’re able to share these items with a single click if you so choose.
The Google+ Project: Huddle
Google+ also has a feature called “Huddle”. This is a group messaging app that allows you to communicate with people through Android, iPhone, and SMS on a Circles level.
The Google+ Project: Hangouts
There’s also a very cool feature called “Hangouts”. With everyone on high-speed networks not many of us use group video chat. There are technical challenges to this, some even require money, however Google has found the main reason to be that it’s socially awkward to video chat with someone. The Google+ team has applied their out of the box thinking and are working to change the way we think about video communication. The analogy they used is to think about a neighbour sitting on a porch. If your neighbour is sitting there, they’ll probably want to strike up a conversion. It would be rude to go on by without saying anything, right?
With this type of mentality, Google+ Hangout attempts to tackle the social problem associated with video chat, making easier for you to let your friends know that you’re interested in chatting. If you’re chatting with a Circle, other Circle members will get an alert to come hangout. This is available for up to 10 people. It’s interesting because Google+ is intelligent enough to focus on who’s controlling the conversion, making the conversion much easier to watch. Think of it as an editor working behind the scenes, cutting between people.
That’s not the only cool part. You can also share a piece of content, like a YouTube video, and everyone in the Hangout is able to watch it together and talk about it.
The main Google+ site is where you will see your stream containing everything. Once there, you’re able to switch between Circles, share content, Hangout with friends, or even look up Sparks.
All of this information is present in real time. No waiting, no refreshing.
There’s also been a lot of talk of the +1 Button and its ineffectiveness; however we’re only now seeing the bigger picture and the potential. The +1 button will be present across all Google+ content. This is officially the Like button of Google.
You want to try it out for yourself? Unfortunately Google is doing a limited release and rolling it out very slowly. If you want to join the waiting list, you can do so here!
What do you think? Will you be using Google+ once it’s fully available?