Itching to try Google's Facebook killer, Google+, but couldn't get an invite? After being locked down for 90 days of public beta testing, it's now available for everybody along with 91 new features. Just don't forget to use your real name!
While Facebook's "Like" button is considered a plague and the social network has an app on every major smartphone platform, it's no Google. Facebook doesn't have a mobile OS platform and it doesn't have YouTube. Those Facebook-focused phones don't really count.
New on Google+ is the ability to have "Hangouts" — like public forums — right on your Android smartphone. So you can video chat with somebody — all while sharing photos and videos, etc. It's quirky, but it's a fun upgrade to the decades old "chatrooms" from yesterday's Internet.
Regular Hangouts also gets some new sharing featuress like screensharing, sketchpad — let's you draw together, Google Docs and topic-based hangouts such as fashion, music, sports, etc.
There's also the ability to finally search for things on Google+. I don't know how they skipped this one in the beta, but it's a no brainer for a company that built its business on finding digital things.
Should I Switch?
It's a matter of preference. I have friends who have sworn off Facebook and joined Google+ and vice versa. Google+ is still in its infancy. Nabbing 20 million unique visitors in its first three weeks is no laughing matter, but at the same time, there's concern that even Google's CEO Larry Page has stopped using the social network.
Now, it's not a fact that Page has given up on Google+ — he could be sharing tons of things with his private circles — and he is the CEO of the largest web company — but it's definitely caused some stirs.
Both platforms have games (although Google handles notifications better). Facebook has more apps, but it's only a matter of time before that comes to Google+ too. The way I see it, Google+ is only going to get stronger features that will put Facebook on alert, which is great, because it'll force Zuckerberg's camp to stop tinkering with stuff like privacy with every new site update.
Google+'s main killer feature will always be its "Circles" — carefully created groups that users can use to curate who they share stuff with. You wouldn't want to share your party animal photos with your mom or boss, now would you?
My two cents is to give Google+ a try — it is open to all now. If you like it, stick with it, and if you don't, then back to Facebook you go. Who really cares what you use? Me? I'm pulling back on my usage for both, just because I think I need to get back to reality and connect with my close friends in person again.