A few months ago, Google pointed its giant machine towards the world of social media. After a less than stellar attempt at getting in on the world of connecting friends with failed products like Buzz and Wave, people were wary as they received invitations to the interestingly named ‘Google Plus’.
What they received was almost more akin to the experience of earlier generation systems like Blogger or Livejournal, but with the ability to tag people, add content easily, and engage groups of friends in easily gathered “circles”. A lot of these functions have been around quite a long time, but rarely have they been done with the sleekness and ease that Google tends to put on everything it does.
Slowly people peeked in and started writing, and it seemed that Google Plus had found a home with engineers, artists, and creators. A lot of it was people that wanted to talk about things without the character limitations of a Twitter or Facebook, while being able to share their ideas with the simple to use attachment interface. Google Plus (G+) settled into its comfortable place and everybody waited patiently for it to go live.
On September 20th, logging into Google, known for changing their traditional multi-colored logo with historical notations, holiday celebrations, and odd interactive toys featured a giant blue arrow pointing to the upper left. G+ was now live and free to use for anyone with a Google account.
Along with this new public face, G+ added a lot more interesting functionality for their mobile users. Google Hangout is the video conferencing system that allows for a party of people to all talk and chat with each other, like a smaller version of video chat conference sites like PalTalk. With a newer Android phone (2.3 or greater) you can actually join in a Hangout simply using your mobile. Now, without a front facing camera, you really have to choose whether you want to see or be seen, but this idea is a huge evolution from the initial idea, and a great addition to both platforms.
Even greater is now the ability to have a one-way solo Hangout. Now you might say to yourself that this sounds quite a bit like a video blog, and it is, but live. You can choose to just turn on the camera and broadcast to the world or save your recording for later to post as you see fit. The ability to broadcast yourself and be watched in a streaming or archived capacity is going to really change the game, as few other social media outlets offer such personal interaction.
The last big movement in the list of functions that G+ Hangout offers is the ability to not just video chat with your friends or associates, but work with them as well. Google already has a fantastic list of online accessible softwares that work nearly as well as their on computer counterparts. Things like their word processor, spreadsheet creator, or art software are all now integrated parts of the Hangout experience. It really is going to be like having a boardroom anywhere you go.
These improvements to the Hangout experience are just one step in the right direction for G+. They recently added in their search engine, which means that now people are going to be able to find people with similar interests easier than ever. This will eventually bring on the ability to tag articles similar to Twitter, so you can follow certain conversations or memes as they circulate around the Google-verse. The ability to search for topics has been one of the most sought after, and now it is as simple as asking a search engine.
The next few months are going to be a real interesting time in social media, as G+ now has the potential to reach the entire world instead of just those that were invited. With Facebook rolling out changes that have some people up in arms, and Twitter comfortably trucking along as the social media you get in small bites, there is a lot of room for these companies to dance. Google has always prided itself on putting together a product that they know their end user will be happy with. Their continued want to make the end users experience to be easy and fast shows that the G+ experience is only going to get better.