What Is Google+ And What Does It Do?

Just this week we started using Google+ to see what all the hype was about. At first we were unimpressed with the simple profiles and the lack of customization options but soon after we remembered a time when Facebook was the same way. There is no doubt that over time Google+ will grow and develop into a more diversified and detailed social network but in the meantime, it’s a nice reminder that sometimes less is more. Whether you haven’t been able to wrangle up an invite yet, you have no interest in trying it out, you hate Google, love Google or are obsessed with Facebook, this post will give you some insight into Google+ features and help you make that tough decision; to use or not to use?

Google+ places a strong emphasis on privacy features and tends to shy away from universal openness exhibited by other social networks like Twitter. Everything you do and share on Google+ revolves around your circles. These circles represent different acquaintances in your life. They are personalized and organized by you into groups such as friends, family, professional etc. Whenever you upload new content or update your status on Google+, you have the option to specify which circles can see your content.

We all like certain things and it’s no surprise that we want to follow topics online, share information and start a conversation with people who share the same interests. Sparks is a feature offered by Google+ that allows users to do just that. Just enter your interests in the Sparks search bar and Google immediately delivers a feed of content from across the internet on any topic you want in over 40 languages. You can even bookmark topics for quick future access. Sparks is well organized, visually appealing and easy to navigate making it a must-use feature that’s bound to take up a lot of your time!

Everyone loves to socialize so it’s no surprise that Google+ has managed to incorporate Hangouts as a unique feature on it’s network. Hangouts allows up to ten people to participate in a group video chat. The best part about this feature is that anyone can launch it and when you do so, it shows up in your activity stream so any of your circle contacts that are online can join in at any time. I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a Google+ favourite!

Mobile Apps
Almost everyone has a smartphone these days so mobile applications are growing in popularity. Instant Upload is a photo sharing app that lets you add photos directly from your phone into a private album that you can share with anyone in just one click. As of yet, there is no limit on the file size, the number of albums or the number of photos. When it comes to video uploading, Google+ has restrictions that limit each video to 15 minutes but they allow up to 1080p resolution.

Have you ever tried texting four of your friends at once to try and plan a movie date? With Huddle, a group messaging app, you can let all your friends within a certain circle know what’s going on and you can all chat together in one place at the same time. It’s essentially like Blackberry messenger for Android devices.

Unfortunately these mobile apps are geared towards Android devices for the time being and there’s no telling if mobile apps will ever be available for Blackberry or iPhone users. Based on Google’s relationship with Apple, I doubt the apps will ever be compatible with Apple products but only time will tell.

Google+ is definitely a work in progress. There are no doubt bugs that need to be fixed and kinks that need to be worked out but it seems like the foundation has been set and from what we can tell, it’s solid this time. Long gone are the days of Orkut, Wave and Buzz. Hopefully this time Google hits a home run and gives Facebook a run for their money. With a sleek user-interface that makes excellent use of white space, new innovative features and simple functionality, Google+ is positioned to make it’s mark on social networking. Have you tried it yet? Let us know what you think!

The Birth of Ping; Apple’s Social Network

Apple is no stranger to innovation so when Steve Jobs announced the creation of Ping, a social network for music lovers, people weren’t very surprised that he’d managed to do it again. Social networking has been a hot spot for brands and businesses alike to interact with consumers and potential consumers via multiple platforms that are built around a variety of different interests. However, what about bands and artists and people with a real passion for music? Apple saw an opportunity and seized it. Not only that, but they did so with such precision that only 48 hours after its debut, Ping had already acquired over one million registered users.

The social network, offered as part of the iTunes 10 update, allows users to create a profile with a photo and other personal information, and add friends and artists they appreciate. Once they’ve joined, users can specify which genres of music they prefer and see what friends and artists are listening to. Users can also post reviews on songs, albums or artists for everyone to see and link to them from their profiles. Ping not only allows an expansion of your musical library, but it also gives people the ability to interact through a shared passion for music.

Not every artist has jumped on the bandwagon but those who have are already establishing fan bases quickly. From the perspective of an average user, I can say that the reason I enjoy it so much is that I love discovering a new band or artist and completely emerging myself in their sound. If I can see what tunes Madonna is listening too, you better believe I’ll check them out. If I, as a fan, am interested in an artist’s music, I can bet I’ll also be interested in what that artist is listening to personally since there is no doubt that their musical choices influence their own sound to some extent.

Aside from the people who dived in early, there may be a few who are hesitant to share their musical library with the world, and for good reason! Who doesn’t have at least ONE embarrassing track on their iPod? I know I could name a few! Luckily for these people, Ping offers the option to display music you like on your profile, or not. As for privacy, Ping has kept it very simple. You’re either private or public. If you choose to remain public, anyone can follow you (similar to Twitter) without your permission and your profile photo and provided information will be accessible by anyone on the network. If you choose to remain private, no one can follow you but your name and photo will appear for some options such as writing reviews.

For the time being one of the biggest downfalls I’ve managed to spot is the horrendous “recommendations” Ping offers. Instead of tying this into iTunes’ Genius feature, Ping is simply pulling the top artists on the network which presents two problems; the recommendations are nowhere near the music I enjoy and Ping can only pull from which artists have signed up so if you’re favourite artist doesn’t have a profile, you’re out of luck, at least for the time being. Hopefully Apple will clue in and fix this issue in the future but for now it looks like I’ll be using the search bar a whole lot.

From what I can tell, Ping is just your average social network so far. There are many updates, changes and additions that need to be completed before Ping can rise to its ultimate potential. What it requires to be successful is not unattainable and knowing Apple’s track record, it should not be difficult to incorporate. Ping isn’t incredibly useful just yet but it has managed to lay a solid base for a future worldwide platform that has the potential to change the way people share music.