Google+ (pronounced Google plus) is a Google social networking platform. The Google+ design team sought to replicate the way people interact offline more closely than is the case in other social networking services, such as Facebook and Twitter. The project’s slogan is “Real-life sharing rethought for the web.”
Circles are like categories for your connections, so that you can share updates selectively with different groups. Examples of such groups might include family, friends, office colleagues and people that you share a particular interest with. Circles may be discrete or have overlap, so that, for example, someone you work with who’s also in your book club will get updates for both groups. Users outside a circle can see a list of member names but not the name of the circle.
Hangouts are an option for video chat for up to 10 people at any given time. Google’s emphasis is on creating the kind of space that replicates casual ad-hoc gatherings in the real world.
Instant upload is an option to automatically send pictures and videos taken with a cell phone to a private photo album. Users can then decide whether to share them and which circles to share them with.
Streams are similar to Facebook news updates but you can see updates for particular circles rather than updates for everyone at once.
Sparks are topics that you want to discuss with others. The interface is an adaptation of Google search. Google describes it this way: “The friends you have are the ones that allow you to geek out about what you are absolutely passionate about… and they have enough of a commonality to let you explore it.”
Google+ is integrated with other Google applications, such as Gmail, Google Maps, Google Drive and Google Calendar.
Google+ follows two less ambitious attempts by the company, Google Wave and Google Buzz. The service launched in beta on June 28, 2011, on an invitation-only basis. The first members were permitted to invite friends the next day but that permission was rescinded almost immediately because of what Google described as “insane demand” for new accounts. Once the service is out of beta, Google plans to increase the Google+ membership gradually.