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Google launched its social network Google + (Google Plus) on June 28, 2011. The Google Plus site integrates a number of Google products including Buzz and Profiles. Having launched applications for iPhone and Android, Google Plus has offered stiff competition to Facebook. Unlike Google’s earlier attempts at social networking such as Wave and Buzz, Google Plus has had an overwhelming demand from the day it was launched. Google Plus gained over forty million users within three months of its launch and is the fastest growing social network yet. The popularity of Google Plus on the day of its launch may be gauged from the fact that it received over 4,000 mentions every minute on Twitter that day.

Launch

Google Plus was launched on June 28, 2011 to a select group of users. In this phase Google Plus was available to users, over eighteen years of age, only through invitation. The invitations were suspended within a day of the launch due to an inordinate demand for accounts. On June 30, 2011, the invitations were resumed only to be shut down, again, due to a huge demand. In early August, Google Plus allowed each of its users to send out 150 invites to join the network. On September 20, 2011, Google threw open the network to the all adult users without the need for an invitation.


Features

With the launch of Google Plus, Google integrated a number of products such as Google Buzz, Google Chat, and Google Profiles.  

In Google Plus a user is allowed to add his or her contacts to various circles. Each circle is a subset of the users social networks. The user may crate any number of circles such as friends, family, colleagues etc. The Google Plus user may share content through the network with one or more circles. This allows the user to choose the contacts who may view the information or content shared. A one time sharing of circles is also permitted between users.

Google Plus Hangout was introduced as a group chat feature. One or many circles may be invited by the user to hangout. A maximum of ten users may join the Hangout and use the group video chat feature. Users at different locations may watch any YouTube video together in a Hangout. This is done by clicking the Share button on YouTube. Google Plus also introduced features such as Sparks and Streams. While Sparks helps users assign topics of interest and find content based on these topics, streams help the user in viewing content shared by a particular Circle of contacts.

Google Plus provides a number of features exclusively available through Android mobile devices. Instant Upload, Huddle (renamed Messenger), and Hangout are available to Android users.

In August 2011, Google Plus introduced sixteen games under the games tab. Upon launch many users had been disappointed because unlike Facebook, Google Plus did not have any games.

As part of their integration plans for Google products, the service allows photos uploaded to Picasa Web Albums to automatically feature in Google Plus Photos. The new design of Google Plus was part of the visual design revamp program that all Google products are slotted to undergo.

Google Plus allows its users to import their contacts from Yahoo and Hotmail. In November 2011, Google Plus added a Ripples feature which allows a user to check the outreach of any content shared. As of December 2011, Google Plus also lunched facial recognition based tagging for the photographs uploaded by the users. Google introduced the +1 button with Google Plus. +1 is the user’s approval that a content is worthy of being shared. Users may +1 any content on the Internet or on Google Plus and share it with a circle. The +1 also allows a user’s contacts to find the content easily when searched for on Google. Google Plus Search was another innovation. Searching for a phrase or keyword on Google Plus allows the user to view all content published for the search string on the network. In November 2011 Google Plus also introduced the Google Pages for business ventures. Google Pages allows organizations to build their presence on social networks and connect to their own communities of users and prospective clients.

Technology

As with most Google web application products, Google Plus uses Java Servlets programs for the server code. The browser end of the user interface is powered by Javascript. The AJAX application and HTML5 History API make the user interface compatible with all the popular browsers. Google Plus is powered by Google's Closure tools such as JavaScript compiler. The use of the high performance database - BigTable, the GFS system - Colossus, and Google's indigenous software framework - MapReduce, allows Google Plus to support large volumes of data.

Competition

Google Plus has been widely acknowledged to be pitted against Facebook, the leading social network of entrepreneur Mark Elliot Zuckerberg. According to The New York Times, Google Plus is Google's best attempt to rival Facebook. Facebook has over 800 million users the world over. Google Plus, with over forty million users within three months of its launch, is now set to give Facebook stiff competition. Other social networks that share the same space as Google Plus are Twitter and MySpace. According to December 2011 reports MySpace, launched in August 2003, has thirty million users, and Twitter, the micro-blogging community, had over a hundred million active users as of September 2011. LinkedIn the business social networking site claims to have about 135 million users as of November 2011. Google Plus is believed to be at an advantage due to the integration of many Google products.

Censorship

Google Plus was launched on June 28, 2011. Within a day of the launch it was reported that the social networking service was blocked in the People's Republic of China using the censorship system called The Great Firewall of China. Reports said that the site was blocked on the basis that it allowed content which would be politically and socially destabilizing. Iran also blocked the social networking service on July 11, 2011. This was done as part of the Internet censorship program of Iran. The launch of Google Plus caused quite a stir. With the popularity of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, Internet users across the world were curious to get a feel of the Google networking experience.

 
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