Google Goes Social...Again

Social networking online is ever-present, connecting friends, family and loved ones together, while giving businesses and organizations the ability to reach out and poke someone. The success of Facebook is known all over the world, with its 500 million daily users, it has become the flagship for successful social networking projects. Many competitors have tried to out-do this social entity, but as MySpace and Geocities have become distant memories, the challenge to recreate the social networking wheel haunts businesses and web design professionals alike.

Google has risen to the challenge, again, to leverage its own presence in the online social world. Google’s previous social networking attempt, Buzz, is still around, but more of an afterthought or joke among social media professionals. The recent "invite-only" launch of Google+ has stirred up the curiosity of these same professionals, social networking addicts, frustrated Facebook users and people that just want to be "in" on the project.

Google+ is a full-featured social networking package that allows "friending," much like on Facebook, but establishes its rules, privacy and security options from the onset of this online relational connection. At the heart of Google+ is Google Circles, the place where friends are made, labeled, categorized and subsequently given different types of information based on their status. For instance, Circles are available for friends, family, acquaintances and random people to follow, even if they don’t follow back. Users can also create personalized Circles that define relationships between co-workers, pirates or whatever else may come along. These connections largely define what is displayed in the Googler’s stream, much like Facebook, as well as what information the people in the Circles are given access to.

In addition to its Circles, the Googler can also define interests, or “+Sparks,” that will likely become some tool for finding random online friends and a way for businesses to target its audience, but also promises to provide interesting information and links to the Googler based on her or his interests. Google+ also has “+Hangouts,” which are multi-user, private webcam areas for pre-defined Circles, groups or activities. The mobile user can still participate with Google+ through its mobile app that can automatically upload photos and +Huddle, Google’s answer to group chats on-the-go.

For the web developer, integrating social media applications within a website has become second nature. With the recent release of Google+ and its phase of Googler testing underway, the world’s web developers are eagerly anticipating what could easily be the next new thing in social networking.

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