Google Plus is a social networking service provided by Google (also known as Google+). Google+ launched as a potential rival to Facebook with plenty of fanfare. The premise is quite similar to other social networking sites, but Google is seeking to distinguish Google+ by allowing for more clarity about who you communicate with and how you connect. It also incorporates all Google services, and when you are logged into a Google account, this displays a new Google+ menu bar on other Google services.

Google+ uses a search engine, Google Profiles and the+ 1 button. Google+ was initially launched with the Circles, Huddle, Hangouts and Sparks apps. Finally Huddle and Sparks were dropped.

Circles

Networks are merely a way to build customized social circles, whether based around work or personal activities. Instead of exchanging all information with a hundreds or thousands of users, the app seeks to personalize communication with smaller groups. Similar features are now available for Twitter, although there are times when Facebook is less straightforward in its networking settings.

Commenting on someone else’s post on Facebook, for example, also encourages friends to see a message and give feedback too. Within Google+, by default a post does not become visible to people who were not initially included in the group it was posted in. Google+ users also have the option of making public feeds available to everyone (even those without accounts) and accessible to feedback from other users of Google+.

Hangouts

Hangouts are nothing more than video chat and instant messaging. A hangout can be started from your computer or desktop. Hangouts also support text or video group chats for up to 10 users. This is also not a feature exclusive to Google+, but it is simpler to use the implementation than it is on other comparable products.

Google Hangouts can also be publicly broadcast to YouTube using Google Hangouts on the Air. 

Huddle and Sparks (Cancelled Features)

Huddle was a group chat for phones. Sparks was a feature that basically created a saved search to find “sparks” of interest within public feeds. It was heavily promoted at launch but fell flat. 

Google Photos

One of Google+’s most popular features was instant uploads from camera phones, and options for photo editing. To improve this feature Google cannibalized many online photo editing firms, but ultimately Google Photos was removed from Google+ and became its own company.

You can still use and post Google Photos uploaded inside Google+ and share it based on the circles you created. Nevertheless, Google Photos can also be used to share photos with other social networks, such as Facebook and Instagram.

Check-ins

Google+ allows your phone to check in from your place. This is close to check-ins at Facebook or other social app venue. Furthermore, location sharing with Google+ can also be configured to allow select individuals to see where you are without expecting you to actually check in at that location. Why would you like this to happen? This is especially handy for members of the family.

Google+ Dies a Long Slow Death

There had been strong early interest in Google+. Larry Page, Google’s CEO, revealed that, just two weeks after launch, the company had over 10 million users. Google was in social apps behind the times, and that company was late for the party. We haven’t seen where the market was going, lost talented workers or let successful products languish as start-ups from other companies (some of which were founded by former Google employees) thrived.

Google+ hasn’t overtaken Twitter, after all that. Blogs and news outlets slowly started removing the option to share G+ from the bottom of their articles and posts. Vic Gundotra, the head of the Google+ project, has left Google after considerable energy and engineering time.

As with other Google social projects, Google+ may also suffer from the issue of Google’s dog food. Google wants to use their own products to know how well they are doing, so they empower their developers to solve problems they encounter rather than rely on someone else to do so. That’s good practice, and it works especially well with apps like Gmail and Chrome.

They’ve got to really broaden this circle in social goods though. First, Google Buzz suffered from privacy issues and Google+ had two big API attacks that put data from millions of users at risk.

The other thing is that while Google employees come from all over the planet, they’re almost all straight-A students with a highly technical background who share similar social circles. They aren’t your semi-computer literate grandma, neighbor or teenage gaggle. Opening Google+ research to non-company users might have addressed usability and privacy issues and resulted in a much better product.