By Ivey McDaniel | staff writer
It was love at first site. We’ve been in a relationship for three years and two months, he’s more mature than my ex, Myspace, and I must admit, I spend most of my free time with him. Ok, well call it unrequited love, but I adore Facebook. That’s why, when Google launched its rendition of the popular site, Google + on Jun. 30, this trustworthy partner didn’t bat an eye. However, lately Facebook’s constant changes, new programs, and continual hackings have been driving me mad, and like every healthy relationship, we need a breather. So, I made a date with the successful search engine’s attempt at a social networking site.
Google + is hooked up to your Google account, so for example, you could use your Gmail password to sign up. This is nice because it eliminates entering repetitive personal information. However, Google + hasn’t been fully released to the public yet, or as the sight calls it, “a field trail period”, similar to what Google did with Gmail in 2004. In plainer terms, the sight is invitation only, which I have to admit, took a hit to my heart when I signed up. Don’t take it personally though, this is to minimize constant changes (*cough, Facebook) on the site. When it fully launched, the makers were given five invitations, which they then dispersed to their lucky friends. Then, their friends were given their own precious handful of invitations, and the cycle goes on and on. So right now, all the users on the site are Google’s ‘guinea pigs’. If you aren’t so lucky, and don’t have a friends who are willing to invite you, like me, don’t fret. Google + provides a waiting list for when the site is officially open to the public, which is rumored to be anywhere from this fall to next spring.
In the meantime, Google provides a really neat tour of some of the features the site is trying out. Besides from the traditional posts, photos, and locations, Google + provides five new unique features. In somewhat of a Prezi format, Google takes you through these additional programs that set it and other social networking sites apart.
One of the first features Google + offers are “Circles”. These resemble Myspace’s coveted “Top Eight”. I know, it’s hard to remember right? These were rankings on everyone’s profile that displayed the friends they communicated with the most, and raised them above all others. And don’t lie, you were totally guilty of devastation and embarrassment when you moved down a position on your friend’s profile. A little less competitive and private are Circles, in which you can classify as many friends as you want, in different groups to make sharing content a little bit easier. For example, you can have your “Best Friends” Circle, your “Work Friends” Circle, and the “Boss/ Parent/ Grandparent” Circle. This eliminates endless explaining to mom when you accidentally forward her those party pictures, or reasoning with grandpa about the humor in Nyan Cat. Jokes aside, this feature, in my opinion, minimizes the group of friends most people have on Facebook, the group of people you add just for the sake of having a larger number on your profile, the group “I had in my freshman Biology class and haven’t talked to since”.
Next are “Hangouts”, which are comparable to the new video chat Facebook launched on it’s site. Like Skype, Hangouts are video chats that can be started, planned or unplanned, and give almost any conversation, a personal feel. Google compares this to “Running into one of your friends while you’re out”, but please, there’s somewhat of an etiquette to this. So put on a clean shirt and comb your hair, because I wouldn’t want to run into you in your cat hair covered robe in your room that looks like it should be on that TLC show about hoarders. That eliminates the excitement of the chat and make it uncomfortable for both of us.
Similar to Hangouts are “Huddles”, which are one of the two Mobile apps Google + offers. Huddles are like a three way call, but in text form. The app allows you to text as many of your Google + friends all at the same time. This becomes a lot easier then calling or texting in case you’re all trying to make plans together, or just want to form a study group. Almost like a blog, Huddles make sharing information with your friends easier, more efficient, and widespread. This dismisses the need to juggle six calls at once, or accidentally sending the text “Yeah, we’ll meet at the game at 6, I hope Laura doesn’t wear that ugly scarf her aunt made her that looks like the stuff in my shower drain!” to in fact, Laura.
The other smart phone app Google + provides is Instant Upload. Instant Upload makes it extremely easy to upload photos from your phone to your profile. The app hooks up to your mobile camcorder and allows you to snap a shot, automatically putting it into your albums on your profile page. However embarrassing photo takers be warned, make sure your phone isn’t in Instant Upload mode when you’re taking picturse you don’t want online. Although this app could possibly have its cons, I see where Google is going with this. It minimizes digging through endless cords, waiting for your phone to resize your photo, and provides immediate gratification.
Lastly is “Sparks”. Sparks are interests you have, or things you want to learn more about. When you type these into the Sparks search engine, it brings up blogs, videos, newspaper articles, and anything else you can think of that has been shared on the internet, about your topic. This ensures you’re never bored and puts an end to profile stalking. Plus, the engine reveals new content every time you search, so you’re never digging through already viewed media. If you really love something, for example, the sweet sounds of Barry White, and you’re always searching on the internet for new content about the soulful singer, you can type him in on Sparks. And if you really like Mr. White, than you can add him to your Sparks interests, which are on your profile, and provide a quick link for you and others to view beautiful information on Barry.
Although it had its draw backs, Google + really surprised me. It seemed a lot more organic and well planned out than Facebook. It bridges the gap between the people you really want to talk and share media with, and people you just collect for a higher friend number. Google + also seemed more efficient, not only in the way media is shared, but the format. Things are placed according to you, so if you never use the Hangout feature, then you don’t have to include it on your homepage. This makes everything more simple, so you’re not tempted to waste countless hours on the computer. I’m not sure I’m ready to dump Facebook, but I hope he’s ok with an open relationship, because Google + has a new member on their waiting list.