Are you in the Google+ circle?

The current times might be a watershed moment in the social media world, not just in Pakistan but all around the globe. The company that may or may not cause this revolution is Google.

In the past, Google has eliminated whatever competition came in its path of it’s search engine to the extent that “Google it” has replaced “search for it” in our vocabulary. It did the same when it integrated photos via Picasa and documents via Google Docs.

It has however not been able to make a place for itself in the social networking world but then the company’s only attempt was the half-baked Google Buzz. Now, Google has decided to take on the giants with its latest project Google+, a complete social networking stream and site, the likes of which we have never seen before.

Although it is closed for the general public right now, I received an invitation to check out its Beta version.

So, what is the difference between Google+ and Facebook? I think we can limit this down to three broad areas:

1. Google+ Hands on and Circles

The basic content stream may look Facebook-ish, but the approach is entirely different under the hood. First of all, instead of categories among friends we have ‘circles.’ You can add and subtract your contacts to these circles.

What is really cool is how you can target different circles and share different content streams with them without going crazy with privacy settings ala Facebook. For instance you can say “I hate you all” in a status update and share it with a circle called ‘losers’ – very streamlined.

The ‘like’ button has been replaced by the ‘plus one’ button and there is a separate box aggregating this in your profile as a ‘brag it’ badge.You can add the usual pictures, videos and all that jazz to any content stream and they show up in a much wider space as well – so less scrolling, more ogling.

2. Hangout

Not being satisfied with taking Facebook on, the brains behind G+ have thrown a challenge at Skype as well.

This feature is not available everywhere in Pakistan at the moment (do we have to wonder why?) but will involve your name showing as online and ready to “hang” if allowed. Through this an audio/video conference can be initiated between the parties. Don’t ask me how I tested this but I found it very fast and streamlined.

The feature also offers YouTube integration, letting users collaboratively watch videos and create running commentaries in the chat, or verbally using the new Google Voice Search technology. Imagine live cricket match replays on it – with all of your friends.

3. Huddle

To me, the best feature of the new G+ social network is its ability to cross platform chat. Yes, Facebook has its chat but then that’s just plain annoying and this module is very similar to Gtalk and even faster in its mobile version which is available in the G+ app for android. So, as soon as it’s available for Nokia, Blackberry and iPhone, we can say “bye bye” to Whatsapp and that cave to cave… umm… Blackberry to Blackberry network known as BBM.