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An introduction to Google+

Google+ (or G+, Google Plus, or GPlus) is a social networking service owned and operated by Google Inc. It has recently surpassed Twitter as the second-largest social networking website in the world. Google+ was launched as an invitation-only service on June 28th, 2011, and since then has grown and developed to integrate social services such as Google Profiles, Hangouts, and Circles. Its closest competition is Facebook, but at 500 million users, it certainly has some catching up to do to get closer to Facebook’s 1 billion users.

Circles

Google+ focuses on targeted sharing, and this sharing is carried out via its Circles function. Circles are basically a way to group the people you know into different categories. You can put your close friends into one, your family into another, and your work into the third. You can create an unlimited amount of Circles with any personalised name you’d like. This allows selective sharing, meaning you can share something that only relates to your work colleagues easily and exclusively to them. You can also customize who sees your profile information by Circle. This function is definitely useful for those with a broad range of acquaintances that possess different interests and hobbies.

The ‘Stream’ which is featured over three columns on the user’s homepage, shows updates from those in their circles and also businesses or organisations they may be following. There is a function to filter what is seen on the news feed by Circle.

Hangouts

The main thing that has recently got Google+ noticed in the competitive social networking world is its group conversation and video chat facility, Hangouts. This is a way to talk to a group of friends at once, send emoticons, and video chat. Messages and video calls can be received and made on the go, so your friends can answer using a different device such as a smartphone. It works on Android phones, tablets, and iPhones and iPod Touch.

You don’t just have to attend hangouts with people you know, you can also get involved with public hangouts which are featured on the Hangouts on Air schedule. These range from interviews with awards nominees to informative documentary style video feeds. There are ‘how-to’ feeds and advice specific to men, women, children, mothers, or fathers. Some often form a series; for example the Online Ocean Symposium created a sequence of feeds in aid of the World Oceans Day programme. These comprise of knowledgeable guest speakers that discuss conservation work and wildlife in the Asian and American seas.  You can also hold your own public hangouts to broadcast to the world, which would be useful for those with a message to send, or a band to promote.

There are some innovative ideas being carried out with Hangouts; the nature of it being worldwide and accessible to anyone gives it a large span of opportunities to grow. Penguin publishing have come up with an inventive new way to use Google+’s video feature.

Penguin have teamed up with ad agency BBH to make the most of Google+’s technology to create an app called Storytime Hangout. It uses video to enhance the classic parent-and-child story time experience. It incorporates the users into the story allowing them to physically act out the story. There is interesting imagery, moving pictures and sounds to keep the children entertained. Although there is worry that this is taking away from the traditional form of storytelling; it is an excellent idea from Penguin to grow alongside new technologies.

“While nothing will ever replace the act of snuggling up with a book and reading a story with a child, we’re using technology to give it a twist, enabling it to happen at long-distances, and connecting stories and readers as Penguin has always done.”

says Anna Rafferty, managing director of Penguin Digital.

-A.R

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