So no surprise in the social world. The hottest invite to a beta launch this week is Google+. Google has finally stepped into the ring with Facebook to take on the social giant. Is it ready for prime time? Well that remains to be seen on a great many levels, but I'll say it's worth trying for sure. Google's tools are always very good, solid if you will. But the past has shown us a line of projects that never got the attention they deserved such as Google Wave and others. There's a great deal of discussion of whether or not much of that (Google Wave) technology might be repurposed in Google+ — yet another item that remains to be seen. Regardless, Google has a ton of brilliant minds (and capital) that are poised to create brilliant tools now and for the foreseeable future. Therefore let's take a quick peak at the cool new shiny tool in the toolbox:
Google+ Home Page:
The home page is very clean and easy to navigate. I shouldn't have been surprised when I noticed subtle design shifts in the Google's interface over the past few days. More leading, adjusted neutral grey iconography and a black horizontal navigation is a stark contrast from its lighter blue past. The real core design variation I can see between this layout and Facebook is the primary "wall," which allows for more room and greater space for technology such as video and larger imagery. Also it's important to note that you can drag and drop media to the post window – "HI! It's about friggin time!"
Google+ Photos Page:
The photos page is nice, clean and gives a subtle 'fanning cards' effect when you roll over the photo albums. I don't have a picasa photos sharing account, but had I, it would have automatically pooled the images into my Google+ account. I'm hoping they will have flickr integration, but that remains to be scene.
The key for me, in my opinion, to battle Facebook will be for Google+ to openly embrace all external apps and social touch-points (e.i. Flickr, twitter, etc.). People want to use what they want to use and not be forced into a google-only tool approach. This is key if you're listening Google. You must let us make the tool what we want it to be, not what you envision it to be. That's what Facebooks is doing – anything it damn well pleases. Oh, and 'hint-hint' if you give us a way to seamlessly migrate our Facebook images and UGC, you might have a mass exodus of Facebook users.
Google+ Profile Page:
No shocker here, I had already constructed a 'Google Profile' account a while ago, knowing (or at least believing) that it would improve Google-related searches on my name. That was the immediate profile that was ported in to establish the account. This was a nice feature, in that I didn't have to take the time to connect to my various social networks. I'd already done that previously upon establishing the profile account.
Google+ "Circles" Page:
The sizzle to Google+ is a feature that they call "Circles." Circles are a way to create pockets for various types of contacts. It's really a fancy contacts folder. What they intend to do with it, I'm not sure. I've found that once you've established several circles you can also hover over anyone within Google+ and simply add them to a circle list without having to return to this page. That was convenient and well thought out.
Google+ "Sparks" Page:
Lastly, if you're the largest search engine in the world, you damn well better give me lots and lots of data on my interests. And it does, in spades, in an area called "sparks." I think this will be like "LIKING" a brand, product, service or person on Facebook but you'll be able to do it with any word imaginable. If Google's got content for it you can create a spark. (insert rimshot)
One more thing is a combination chat/video integration called "Hangouts." This seems a bit thrown in but it's a neat differentiator right now as Facebook doesn't have anything like it.
Google+ on mobile:
Oh, kudos to Google for launching a mobile app in their native Android operating system, but while the iPhone's application is in development they constructed a very nice mobi site/application: Visit this URL in your phone's browser. m.google.com/plus
So what are you thoughts Google+? Too little too late, or just in time to save us from the monopoly of Facebook? Do you have an account yet? If yes, do you like it and why? If no, are you interested in getting one, or just don't care?