What is Google+? It’s the super top-secret social project that Google has been working on for the past year. You know, the one being led by General Patton (Vic Gundotra) and General MacArthur (Bradley Horowitz). Yes, the one Google has tried to downplay as much as humanly possible — even as we got leak after leak after leak of what they were working on. Yes, the one they weren’t going to make a big deal about. It’s real. And it’s here.
Google is betting that its approach to privacy and extensive control over who you share information with on the network will set Google Plus apart.
The service revolves around a concept of “circles,” (presumably not the same circles that Dante visited). You can create as many circles as you like, for whatever categories you want: for example family, co-workers or biking friends. Above the circles are a slew of thumbnail images of friends and contacts which Google suggests you might want in your social network. To add a person to one of your groups, drag the name into a circle.
If you decide to remove someone from a circle, you simply drag their image out of the circle, at which point the image will explode into a cloud of smoke – one of several whimsical touches in Google Plus.
To use Google Plus you need to create a Google profile. At the very minimum, Google requires that you use your real name and include a photo. Beyond that, you can furnish the profile with as much, or as little, detail about yourself as you want.
You can control how much of your profile is visible to other folks on the network: your name and occupation for some folks; relationship status for others. Type a person’s name into a box, and you can see what your profile looks like through their eyes.
In a sense, Google Plus combines the Facebook and Twitter models of social networking: You can have friends in your social network with whom you share information, and you can also simply follow certain people, say a movie critic who you don’ t know personally, a la Twitter.