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Google+ Features Unveiled for Testers

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The newest creation from Google has recently been released in its field trial version. The product, know as Google+, is the latest in the new trend of social media sites, but has a larger range of options than others such as Facebook or Twitter.

“We believe online sharing is broken, and even awkward,” Google’s Senior Vice President of Engineering Vic Gundotra said in an interview with techcrunch.com. “We think connecting with other people is a basic human need. We do it all the time in real life, but our online tools are rigid. They force us into buckets — or into being completely public,” he continued. “Real life sharing is nuanced and rich. It has been hard to get that into software.”

The site has attempted to be kept low key in order to make sure all kinks are worked out before officially unveiling it, which is the same approach the company took with Gmail. The project, which has been worked on for about a year by Gundotra and Google’s Vice President of Products and Google Apps Bradley Horowitz, has also been delayed several times despite being leaked on a few occasions.

While many wonder if it will fizzle like Buzz and Wave, those who have been invited to test it out—mostly tech journalists and experts—can explore many interactive options that connect users to each other and their other Google accounts.

According to Ben Parr of mashable.com, “The search giant’s new social project will be omnipresent on its products, thanks to a complete redesign of the navigation bar. The familiar gray strip at the top of every Google page will turn black, and come with several new options for accessing your Google+ profile, viewing notifications and instantly sharing content. The notification system is similar to how Facebook handles notifications, complete with a red number that increases with each additional notice.”

The interface also resembles Facebook’s, with a feed of friend’s activities, the profile picture, friend suggestions and a chat option in almost the exact same locations in the layout as the social media mogul. But, unlike its predecessor, Google+  has debuted many new user-friendly options, which it shows off in a virtual, interactive tour.

Circles

Circles allows the user to group his or her friends so posts may be shared with only a select group of people. Gundotra assures the new software makes this process fun and rewarding, and much easier than creating a group on Facebook.

The goal of Circles is to prevent users from creating multiple profiles in order to share things with different people. With it, you can create a circle of your friends, coworkers, family, etc. Then you can choose which circle will see whatever you are posting.

“You share different things with different people,” the site says. “So sharing the right stuff with the right people shouldn’t be a hassle. Circles makes it easy to put your friends from Saturday night in one circle, your parents in another, and your boss in a circle by himself – just like real life.”

Hangouts

The project also introduces what it calls “Hangouts.” A user can opt to be available for a hangout (and can again choose who can see this), which allows others to video chat with them. The chat can include multiple people, and also provides a text option.

Instant Upload

“Taking photos is fun. Sharing photos is fun. Getting photos off your phone is pretty much the opposite of fun,” the site says. “With Instant Upload, your photos and videos upload themselves automatically, to a private album on Google+.  All you have to do is decide who to share them with.”

Sparks

Users can type things they’re interested in, such as fashion, music or food, into Sparks. The software will then find things it thinks the user will like and send it to them. This way, according to the site, “when you’re free, there’s always something cool to watch, read, or share.”

Huddle

Huddle creates a way for texting conversations within a Circle to be read as one dialogue. It takes everyone’s texts and makes a group chat for an easier and more organized way of deciding where to eat, what to do, or anything else involving many people.

Invites to test the site have been halted, and even those who were previously chosen as testers are having trouble gaining access. “Already invited? We’ve temporarily exceeded our capacity. Please try again soon,” reads a note on the site.

“We’ve shut down invite mechanism …” Gundotra said. “Insane demand. We need to do this carefully, and in a controlled way. Thank you all for your interest!”

Now, the only way to enter the site is to be invited by someone who already has a profile. Some users have even started auctioning off these invites on ebay.com, but most for less than $5.

There is no word yet on when the site will be officially ready to use, but those eager to try it can submit their email in hopes of being chosen for the next round of testers.

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