A Quick Understanding of How Google+ Differs from Facebook

[This post is intended for friends and others just looking for a very high level understanding of Google+. This is not an official POV and does not represent my employer.]

Over the past day, people have been asking “What’s Google+?” and for the few friends of mine who are on Google+, many of them are getting really excited about the Circles feature which is one of the defining features of the nascent social network run by the search giant.

A few things to understand:

Google+ is not Google’s first foray into social media, but from what I can tell so far, they’ve learned quite a bit from their mistakes on Buzz and Wave. Having said that, the platform looks and feels a heck of a lot like Facebook, just without much clutter … or much of anything at the moment. Let’s give it some time and see what it’ll look like in a week or month. Hopefully it will have a distinct look and feel to it.

In terms of the aforementioned Circles functionality, people using it are excited that they are able to compartmentalize and message their friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances, ex-camp mates, people met at a conference, etc. in a way that they hadn’t on Facebook. The thing is, this exact functionality already exists on Facebook, it’s called Lists. I have been using Lists basically since it came out and it’s great. It allows you post a status update and have it visible to just the list or lists you want, OR post a status update to everyone and block certain lists.

For example, if you’re posting something controversial and you don’t want your boss and co-workers to see it, you can add all your co-workers to a list, and block just that list from seeing that specific status update or image or video.

I will give credit to Google in that Circles is a really nice visualization of your friends, whereas Facebook’s Lists are not all that visually exciting. Having said that, nothing is really stopping Facebook from tweaking the way Lists looks currently. (In fact, Mark Zuckerberg has already been spotted using Google+, so we know Facebook is paying attention.)

The biggest differentiating factor on Google+ is the ability to start a Hangout, which is a video chat room with multiple people… meaning, each of you in the chat room can be on your cam and see your friends simultaneously. I have yet to use this feature. But in truth, when will I? I can already video chat one on one using Gchat or Skype. If you’re someone who doesn’t typically call multiple friends at once in a conference call, you may not see a need in this video feature.

I’m assuming that more features will be rolling out in the near future to further differentiate this platform from Facebook, but until then, everyone just calm down and nothing is happening to Facebook (at least not until they announce their platform upgrades – which may happen as early as next week). If you wanted to delete your FB account, you would’ve done it before Google+ ever existed.