It is currently only available by invitation, but Google+ will launch for the general public soon. In its first two weeks, Google+ booked 10 million members and recorded more than 2.3 billion clicks each day on those little share buttons.
But Google+ is more than just a mashup of Facebook and Twitter. Because Google can draw on its vast knowledge of your preferences based on search history, Google+ takes much of the work out of discovering new information.
Along with communication between individuals, Google+ makes it easy to find new websites that you’re likely to enjoy. Through a feature called Spark, the new social service delivers information to you in a single stream without the hassles of subscribing to an RSS feed.
Google+ is based on the idea of circles: circles of family, friends, business associates and even people who are experts or share your interest in a subject. While Facebook lets its members separate their “friends” into different groups, it has never been an easy process. The circles in Google+ eliminate that problem. You can assign a person to more than one circle.
First, you will need a free Gmail account to set up Google+. Click on the Gmail link at the top of the Google search homepage to visit Gmail and create a new account if you don't already have one.
You need an invitation. Send me an email with your Gmail address and I'll send you one. ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
When you join Google+, it will ask you to enter a few key details such as occupation and education. It will also ask you to choose a profile photo. You may add more information if you'd like such as "Places lived" and relationship status, but this data is optional. If you don't want to share personal information, you don't have to.
On the right-hand side, add links to other locations on the Web that relate to you. Most users add a personal website or blog, as well as their Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.
Tip: See your profile as others will see it by clicking "view profile as … " and type in a name of someone in one of your circles.
Privacy options in Google+ are based on circles. There are four standard settings: Anyone on the Web, extended circles (includes the circles of people in your circles), your circles and only you. Further, you can specify circles or individuals by choosing the custom option. These settings apply to your profile and your posts.
When you add a post to your stream, you can select the circles of people who will see your post by accessing the "Add circles or people to share with" feature. While this limits the initial group of recipients, any of those people could share your message with others, just like forwarding an email.
To disable sharing, click on the small arrow at the top of your post on the right side. A drop-down menu will appear where you may disable the sharing function.
The mechanics of updating your stream are simple.
- Just type in the "Share what's new" box at the top of your Google+ homepage.
- Add a photo, video, link or location information by using the small icons in the post box.
- Choose sharing options. Whatever option you selected in your previous update will appear by default. Click the small "x" in each sharing button to remove. Note: Green signifies public options including extended circles, while blue indicates that you've chosen circles.
Reading your stream is far easier than Facebook or Twitter because Google lets you select the circles that appear in your stream. You can change your selection with a single click. See just family or just colleagues by using the buttons that correspond to each circle you've created.
As your stream becomes more crowded, you may find the mute button useful. For instance, one birthday post can quickly accumulate hundreds of comments. Click on the small arrow in a circle in the upper right corner of the post and select "mute." The post will be hidden, but a one line reminder message and a link to undo mute remains.
For now, Google+ is a quiet place. Even if it fills up, the tools are in place to keep things under control. If you've been hesitant to dive into Facebook, but would like to have a place for communication with old friends, Google+ is a good place to start.