What is Google+?

Simply put, Google+ is Google’s social networking platform. It is not a competitor of Facebook and Twitter, although some social media professionals do say that. They believe that Google+, Facebook, or Twitter has to win the social networking war.

They may be right, but a victory for any one of the networks lies far in the future. Google+, which began with a furor of activity, has become much quieter in the past few weeks. It is alive and well, unlike Google Buzz, but it has some work to do if it hopes to gain new users and to keep the ones it currently has.

Google+, unlike Facebook, does not follow a “friend” strategy; rather, it employs a “like” or “follow” one. You can follow people and add them to what Google has named “circles.” Those people can then choose to follow you in return. Google+ provides four basic categories of circles – family, friends, acquaintances, and following – to which can be added any number of custom circles. Those circles currently are capped at 5,000 followers, meaning that you can follow up to 5,000 people within all your circles.

Google+’s other features include streams, sparks, chat, hangouts, huddles, and games. “Streams” are Google+‘s newsfeed. You can choose to view the overarching stream, or, if you’re only interested in what your friends have to say, you can choose to view the “friends” stream. Sparks bear a similarity to Google Reader. You create a new “spark,” and items related to that subject will appear in the sparks stream. The feature has yet to gain much traction since most people rely on Google Reader or Google Search. Chats can occur via text – think instant messenger – or video. Hangouts take the video component to another level; hangouts allow up to ten people to video chat at once. While the video features are attractive, the quality of the video isn’t yet up to Skype standards. Huddles are found on the mobile version of Google+, and they allow you to text groups of people simultaneously. Games recently became available on Google+, including the ever-popular Angry Birds.

Are you on Google+? What do you think about it? Do you have questions about Google+? Let us know in the comments.

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