Every time a new social network comes along, the tech enthusiasts begin to ask: could this be the one that unseats Facebook as the king of all social networking? In the past, there’s been very little reason to think that would be the case. With Google Plus, however, there are enticing new features that could easily put Facebook in its place — second place.
Facebook offers its in-browser chat option as text only, the traditional way that users have communicated with each other on the internet. But Google Plus steps it up, offering group voice chat for as many as ten users at the same time. Users can create circles (privacy groups, detailed later), and then invite those groups to a “Hangout” group chat. Only those users in the invited “circle” can accept the invite and join the fun. But this is miles and miles ahead of Facebook’s current communication options, and could be a significant draw for the younger crowd that Facebook currently dominates.
Google has put its in-house news service to good work in the form of Sparks, which allows Google Plus users to share with their circles stories and videos that they think they’ll enjoy. What’s better, the list of news stories, videos, and other media, is updated as new stories become available that Google things the circle will like. It essentially is a continuous stream of relevant, entertaining information from around the internet that gives users an excuse to keep their browser pointed at Google and no one else. Because Facebook only pulls content from its own users, this gives Google an international edge in multimedia that Facebook simply can’t hope to possess.
Google has integrated its “Plus One” feature, meaning that users can place a vote of confidence in news stories, videos, and each others’ posts and comments. And everything they “plus one” is aggregated on their profile and shared with the appropriate circles, turning the site into a hybrid of Facebook, Google News, and Digg. It allows users to promote each other in ways Facebook simply does not have.
Overall, Google Plus seems to be packaged as the next logical evolution of social networking. Its features point to a media-centric, self-contained form of communication that is heavy on privacy, forward-thinking in technology, and ahead of Facebook by several miles — digitally speaking.