Google+ is the tech giant's latest attempt to break the social network hoodoo that surrounds the company. After the failure of Google Buzz and Wave to garner public support there is a belief that the company may finally have figured out how to do social.
The service allows users to share photos, links and videos with friends, family and acquaintances. The key difference between Google's offering and similar social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, is the user's ability to target their sharing with specific people instead of the default "share with everyone" approach.
"Online sharing is awkward. Even broken. And we aim to fix it," the company said.
Google+ also allows video chat and instant messaging features that allow conversations to be shared with up to ten people at once.
The service is only available to a limited number of people at present but Google intends to open out a public version in the coming months.
IB Times takes a look at the five key features of Google+ as drawn from various news outlets:
Google+ bears more than a passing resemblance to Facebook, users can personalise lists of friends and stream news feeds, according to the Washington Post. The key difference, and one that Google have been quick to identify, is the feature encourages users to group their friends together by category -- eg. school friends, relatives, work colleagues etc. Circles aims to streamline one of Facebook and Twitter's key disadvantages: what we share with close friends doesn't necessarily need to be shared with our boss.
"We found that people already use real-life circles to express themselves, and to share with precisely the right folks. So [...] we brought Circles to software," Google said.
The feature allows the user to assign people to different groups (which only the individual can see) by dragging and dropping their contact card into specific lists.
2. Using the '+'
One of the key features of Google+ is its streamlined approach to online sharing. Google has described the process as "awkward, even broken" and their new network aims to fix that.
Google+ is integrated into the navigation bar at the top of almost all Google products, which allows users to keep track of their Google+ notifications without doubling back to the main Google+ homepage.
A drop-down window on each page allows users to keep track of on-going conversations, post their own comments or do nothing at all.
3. Vertical integration
The company have created a group called the Data Liberation Front that is supposed to make accessing data from Google products even easier.
Previously, moving large amounts of data around a user's apps was painfully slow but with Google+ the entire process has been streamlined.
PC World reports, "clicking on the cog in the upper right hand corner and selecting "Google+ settings" from the social network's home page brings you to a revamped Google Accounts page. From there, you can select the Data Liberation tab. And with just a few clicks you can download data from your Picasa Web Albums, Google profile, Google+ stream, Buzz and contacts."
Sparks seems to be Google's answer to Twitter -- a means of posting and keeping track of news and content of interest to the user from around the web.
The feature seems to be the least successful aspect of Google+, at least amongst those who are operating the beta version. Users input a list of interests, topics and news stories and 'Sparks' identifies links from individuals and organisations which might be of interest. Currently, the feature doesn't incorporate suggestions from people the user follows, which makes it a less engaging aspect than Google perhaps intended.
Although Google+ has been billed as a "Facebook killer", 'Hangouts' seems to be targeting the market currently occupied by Microsoft's latest purchase, Skype.
The feature allows users to pull groups together for a simultaneous video chat.
"Whether it's inside a pub or on a front porch, human beings have always enjoyed hanging out [...] By combining the casual meetup with live multi-person video, Hangouts lets you stop by when you're free, and spend time with your Circles," Google said.