Part social network, part beta system

Google+ is something of a black sheep in the world of social media. Even as a young network of three years that has grown faster than many of the current leaders, Google+ has been disparaged and shunned by much of the public for the moves Google has made with it. Google+ has long required users to use their real name as their screen name, a move which was made even more unpopular when Google announced that YouTube comments would take place through Google+. That requirement is now gone, much to the delight of SamsungKnight1134.

Recently, the departure of the public face of Google+, Vic Gundotra, led many to call the network dead. These naysayers claim Google+ doesn't work, it doesn't make sense, and that it's a ghost town. I'm here to tell you that they're wrong. It is alive, it absolutely works, and you should almost definitely use it. How do I know?

Because I wouldn't be writing here without it.

Google+ has been my primary blogging platform since the beginning, and my primary social platform for over a year. Every week I'd meet a few more people who liked my writing and wanted to talk tech. I'd share my posts in any community I dared in the hopes that more established writers could help guide my writing, shape it for the better. With a timely post on rooting, I managed to catch the eye of some very established writers, and they decided to take a chance on me here at Android Central. So to me, Google+ is a little more than just a social network, and I'd like to help share its bounty with you.

What is Google+?

Google+ doesn't rely on your existing connections — it helps you make new ones.

Google+ is a social network that builds off of your Google Account. If you have a Google Account, you can activate your Google+ account as easily as you would activate Google Now. At first, it seems about the same as Facebook or Twitter, importing contacts and assigning them to circles — Google+'s version of lists. After that, you can add curated circles for your particular interests, entertainment, news, sports, etc. That said, the first big difference is that Google+ isn't reliant on any of those real-life contacts you import. I went into Google+ with none of my family or friends using the site. That's right, none. And that was perfectly fine, because my feed is not clogged with baby pictures and engagement announcements like Facebook is. It's filled with Android, cooking and Disney. Because those are my interests and my passions, and that is a big part of what Google+ is for: connecting you to other people who are interested in your passions.

Communities and Circles: A place for everything, and everything in its place

Some of the many

Google+ helps you connect to others with your passion with Communities, and helps you keep those interests separate with Circles. Just as you don't want to share your Facebook party pics with your parents (and maybe you really shouldn't share them anywhere), you don't want to send your pumpkin seed recipe with your fellow Android enthusiasts. I have separate circles for work, news, and tech, and I share directly with communities instead of circles for niche content. I can also control the amount of content I see from each community in my feed in each community's settings. If I want to see lots of Android and not a lot of gardening pictures, that's what I see.

There's a community for that.

Communities can be as big as 380,000, like the Android community created by Android Central, or be as small as a couple of friends sharing meme GIFs. They can cater to every fandom, hobby, and political affiliation. There are dozens of communities for Android themes, ROMs, mods, and apps. These communities are one of the more valuable tools for users as there is always some up in the communities to answer questions. In addition, some devices like the Moto X have extra help in their communities from product managers and employees from within Motorola. Yet another reason the Moto X and its maker are still awesome after a year.

Punit Soni helping connect troubled users with the app teams that can help them.

Beta Testing: Google+ brings developers and testers together

Google+ is especially useful to those whose passion is Android, because it's more than a place to talk about Android and apps: it's a place to help make them better. Beta testing for many popular apps including Nova Launcher, CCleaner, and Beautiful Widgets is done through Google+ due to its integration with the Play Store. That whole "One Account, All of Google" thing has its perks.

Nova Launcher's Beta Community

Now, these betas are easy enough to get into. Once you join the community, you can use the opt-in link on the community's page to join the beta, and that version will push to your Android devices in a few hours. And the feedback they give developers helps shape the app for future users. I'm in the TouchPal X keyboard beta, and I along with my fellow beta users managed to get Kit Kat emoji support added after our sustained pleas.

Google+ is Google: Uniting services and people who use them.

Google+ encourages you to promote Google's services for them.

Google calls Google+ the "social layer" of their services, augmenting many other services such as the Play Store, Gmail, and, of course, Search. While searching for Google (say for Chromebook reviews), relevant posts from your circles will appear in search results. Just as the integration with your Google Account makes beta testing through Google+ simpler, it allows you to more easily share documents from Drive or songs from Play Music with the Google+ share intent across the Android and Google ecosystems. Google+ helps bring together their differing services in order to help serve its users. You can see what apps your friends like in the Play Store, and their reviews can help warn you away from bad content.

Android Central Podcast - Every Friday on Google+

This is to say nothing of the fantastic integration between Google+ and YouTube that is Hangouts on Air, which we at Android Central use for our weekly podcasts. The event is posted and promoted through Google+ and the video is then automatically stored on YouTube to watch afterwards. Hangouts on Air isn't just for podcasts and talk shows, it can be used for teaching, business presentations, and even family reunions.

Google+ doesn't have ads, but it does feed them.

Google+ does have a leg up on other social media sites in that it will never feature ads. It quite simply doesn't need to. In exchange for this network and the conveniences it brings to the Google and Android ecosystems, Google+ makes its profit not off of ads, but off the information it can use to feed them. Most social media sites collect user information for ads, and often sell that data after utilizing it themselves. However, for the others, that begins by placing ads on their own sites, and Google+ has no need for that. Google users will be spending enough time in Search and other websites where AdSense can reach them that it does not need to clutter their social network with it. It is a trade-off, yes, but it's the same trade-off users make when they sign up for any other social network.

Find us on Google+

It may not be the most popular network on the planet, but Google+ is definitely alive and useful. From beta testing to #Caturday, Google+ is much more than the butt of a joke, and it's worth at least a look. Check out Android Central on Google+ to get started!

 

Reader comments

What is Google+ and why should I use it?

117 Comments

Google + is actually a pretty nice network you just need to fiddle around so that you can understand everything in it I admit it took me a while to get it but eventually I managed to get around it and now I can use it well

Posted via Android Central App

Google+ has the same problem as Facebook and every other social network I've ever used; once you've added people/friends to your circles/streams/whatever, there's really no way to have direct control over what posts of theirs that you see, besides a random slider like 'show more', 'show less', etc.

For example, I have certain people in my circles because we share a lot of the same interests, especially as it relates to Android. But one interest I don't really share with them is that they're also rabid Nintendo fanboys, and they post a LOT of Nintendo-related stuff. If I could just have a feature where I could click a button that says 'don't show me any more posts with this hashtag', I could eliminate the posts in my stream every day by over half, just by filtering '#nintendo', '#wiiu', and '#3ds'.

The question is, why won't Google give us this feature? Many of us have posted this feedback to them several times; it seems like such a common sense thing to do. My guess is that it would interfere with their ad revenue somehow... I'm not sure. As it is, it seems like forums are a much better option for 'common interest' type of things, as at least there, things are separated into groups. With G+, you just get it all like a fire hose. Of course, there's always communities, but then again... nothing that forums haven't been doing for well over a decade.

Oh, and as far as annoyances go, I'm not sure geeks are any better than people on Facebook. My friends on Facebook will post selfies, whereas people on G+ will post pics of themselves playing video games, while at the same time railing against selfies. Doesn't make much sense to me. They also post pics of every Pokemon plushy they scored at Target, and/or every shitty, $4.99 game they bought off the bargain rack.

Thinking about it, to be able to tell G+ "I want to see this person's posts, but not ones with these tags" would likely help their ad revenue - they get a better idea of your interests, and can give you more relevant ads.

Actually, if your friends paid more attention who they shared stuff with... They could create a circle for Nintendo, then only share that stuff with their Nintendo circle. But that is how it would have to work within the existing structure of Google+

I was enjoy G+ until this douche spoiled the ending of a game to me so I quit. Better not join any these movies/ games community where they're gonna spoil everythin

I never believe the people that spoil anything, for it was through their eyes and their opinions and their representations of what happened. You still have to see it for yourself to fully understand the ending and make your own assumptions. Spoilers make me want to see how that event happens anyways.

Even though I read books that were turned into movies it did not stop me from seeing those movies even though I knew the ending. That was when I was young. Now a days I prefer to see the movie first then read the book, because movies destroy the plot and endings and characters after I read the book. It's better to have a movie inspire you to read the book and want to learn the full story, back ground and characters.

I love Google+ but I can't stand Facebook. Google+ just works for me with the social aspect and photos.

I use G+ just because of No Ads.

I stopped using Facebook because it showed me more ads than people.

Posted via the LG G2 Android Central App

Indeed Facebook has no way of gaining money but ads unlike Google who has many other ways to make money

Posted via Android Central App

Well it's definitely the nicest social network over all. Nicest looking, especially with no ads, best conversations with people, of course the best photo editing tools.

I have to admit, when Google+ first launched I was all over it being a die-hard Google fan, but after a few months, I used it less and less and less while (sadly) going back to Facebook and Instagram and Tumblr. Now, since I keep up with sites like AndroidCentral and others, I keep reading about different updates and features that have been added and I've been tempted to get back into it. It really does look beautiful and definitely not bogged down with as much JUNK as Facebook.

I've been using the Photos feature of it for a while now on my different phones with Auto Backup. Super convenient.

This article might just get me back over into it.

Same, I wanna start using it but I don't have much use for communities, I already visit three or four forums on a daily basis for hobbies I'm interested in (Xda, Hardforum for PC hardware, DPreview, etc) so it's unlikely I'd reap much from replicating that on G+... And not enough personal friends/family use it, tho I'm encouraging them to do so since photo sharing on G+ is soooo much better than FB.

I love Google+. I quit Facebook 14 months ago and haven't looked back. Its not loaded with the garbage Facebook has and is much more informative with a social aspect. I use it daily. I no longer get candy crush requests. Yipee

Posted via Android Central App

Exactly. I know Google wishes that it had caught on as more of a traditional, Facebook-style social network, but I'm glad that it's ended up being more community-focused and less full of personal posts. I don't use G+ daily (I was never big on social network sites), but when I do, it's a much better experience than Facebook ever was.

I don't wish it had caught on as a facebook-style network. Facebook alters your news feed so that you mostly see stuff that you're more likely to 'like', essentially turning your feed into a mutual admiration society. It also limits how many people you can reach without paying for it, which dropped one of my blogging friends from getting 300k views a week down to 30-50k. It's not good business and most of the people I come across don't really like it... but they keep using it anyway. Why? Because that's how they keep up with everyone else.

I like G+ for android stuff, as fb is very useless at that. My friends don't care, and you ever try and read the comments on Android Central posts? Most are spam and most of the rest are stupid.

I like the G+ app as well, though I'm glad they're breaking out Photos.

What's the name of the Moto X community?

Posted from my Nexus 7 2013 via Android Central App

https://plus.google.com/communities/116517178872973348174 for the Moto X community.

I'm happy G+ is where it is because we have fewer idiots. Not none, but much fewer. I'm not a huge fan of breaking everything out of G+ as if they're apologizing for the network.

I love G+ because my family and friends are busy over at FB (which I have always despised) spewing content I could care less about. G+ is more elegant, smoother, refined and I want to say educational. I've learned plenty on G+. As for breaking off photos. This is truly disappointing. I hope some common sense will prevail before it actually happens.

Informative article, thanks!

I still am averse to most "social network" stuff (although I suppose even this comment stuff and Slashdot are somewhat social network) so I probably will never use Google+ (and certainly will never use Facebook).

I'm a huge fan of G+. Much better design and layout, much better information, much better communication methods. It's really a wonderful platform.

If I used social media I might use it, but I do not use any of them and I do not like google tying it to other things such as leaving comments on you tube or photos + etc. Stop trying to force me to use something I do not want.

I agree. I am capable of finding the people and things I need on my own. There may not be ads. But it's being used for a advertising pupose.

Posted via Android Central App

I just find it a more intelligent and a better source of news, entertainment and information than Facebook. It is my first port of call for help and the first place I log on to in the morning.

Excellent article! I keep trying to get my Luddite Facebook friends to come over to G+, but they're too lazy to change. Probably due in part to their iPhone addictions.

Posted via Android Central App.
Please excuse any typos or autocorrect derps.

Don't worry, most of my coworkers at the TV blast Google and Android every chance they get. It's like a game. Whatever, their loss. Keep the simple-minded on Facebook with the baby pictures and wedding plans, and we can keep G+ a little less cluttered a little longer... and keep the bots away.

What's wrong with baby pictures and wedding plans? Damn I must be getting old... Pictures of my God son or friends are just about the only reason I ever visited FB, and I actually made the account to look at wedding pictures when my first high school friend got married.

I guess G+ Communities are to old school forums and message boards what IM is to email...

Here's a problem. When people think of Facebook they think of social media. When they think of Google they think Android, not apple. And google+ will probably only work on a android device. Maybe if it was called something else without the Google branding it may have caught on.

Posted via Android Central App

I love Google+. I use it as my News Feed for everything from new cars, to tech, to clothes etc. It's clean, the communities are great and I'm not being overwhelmed with ads and stupid vine videos I can care less about. Its personalized to the things I enjoy.

Friends and family on Facebook wonder why they rarely see me there anymore. Well... I'm too busy having fun, learning and connecting with new people on Google+. I was never a big social network fan until G+ came along.
The whole key to getting started and connected is in the dropdown menu in the upper left corner. Oh, and G+ fans love more integration with other Google services including YouTube, so the rest of you might as well get used to it. :)

P.S. I use Google+ and Hangouts on Android, iOS and in Windows (browser mode). They're cross platform like most Google services.

Posted via Android Central App

This really sounds like a shill. lol.

I don't care if you like the extra integration, I'm asking why it can't be optional. Seriously, I have 2 accounts on G+ and I didn't willingly make either.

Google+ is a parasite to other services. As a social network it's decent but it's too annoying of Fanboyism at the same time.

Posted via Android Central App

How do we really know it's not the most popular? Numbers say it's the second most popular but even facebook admits that they fake their numbers.

There are numbers from Photos and YouTube-only users in there, so their numbers are a bit fake, too. I don't want us to be the most popular, either. If we're popular, the bots will get more persistent.

This is true, but that's part of a larger problem that I'm hoping to address in a bit about how everyone should be paying closer attention to the Verizon G3 experiment, especially Google.

Don't hate the app or anything, I jus don't like not being able to delete it, I uninstalled Facebook, I only use Twitter really, but I think everyone is too invested in other social networking sites to really make that move, the problem with g+ is that it came along at the wrong time.

Posted via Android Central App

You can disable it ....I did that because it was such a drain on my battery ....never shut off...well it's off now!

Posted via Android Central App

I really like google+, yeah it may not have near the people as Facebook or twitter, but it doesn't have all the garbage or spam either which is one of the reasons I like it so much.

Wow my favourite part of this blog is to know that this lady uses a Moto X still ha woe lovely to see someone at Android Central uses the phone of the year still

Posted via Moto awesome X

Sold mine a few weeks ago waiting on the x+1...picked up the G3 on launch returned it and got a Xperia X2 to check out. Miss that moto though!

I'm getting used to it but using its more as the UK Plc company I work for use it along with all the Google apps and Drive for productivity and communities within the whole business. It's pretty extensive and all moved aways from Microsoft to Google and every partner has a Google account with its Drive storage etc..

Posted via Android Central App

It's a social media place organized by Google. It's much more organized than Facebook or Twitter

Posted via Android Central App

That's because it farms it's users for ad targeting and pimping. It doesn't need visible ads on the site, because the service is one big ad machine pretending to be a social network.

Don't want another social network - barely tolerate Facebook and there mostly under duress - and I dislike that Google seems determined to attach some of their other apps to Google+. Its not integration - its push marketing. Can't even comment for good or bad on an app bought in Google Play without being on Google+? Screw that.

I already accept that the Android OS is a shill, conning me to hand over my wallet, ID and anything else of value Google can flog to make a buck - please don't require me to further debase my value by requiring me to be a 'Member' to a club I don't want to join.

To quote Groucho Marx, "...I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member."

Exactly. I can't even review apps I paid for without signing up for a social network that is totally unrelated !?

That is ridiculous.

I'm not using G+ at all lately but I fail to see how this is an issue if you're not posting/reading anything on G+ either. It's like complaining you got signed up for a Drive account when you opened a Gmail account...

The difference here, Impulses, is that if you get a Drive account when you open a Gmail account, the expectation is that every email you send via Gmail will not be noted in your Drive account, nor is it open to your 'Circle' to view and comment on.

With Google+ - if I, for example, download an App from the Google Play Store and wish to 'review' it (possibly in an effort to make it better, or I have a problem or just say how swell it is), this review _will_ be posted in Google+ (any effort to post requires you to sign up / into Google+), so that your Circle can see what you've said and about what app and start a dialogue about it. Ditto too (if not yet, in time) every visit you make to YouTube or Hangouts.

My friends don't need to know every step I take in the Droidoverse and I certainly don't care what they do in their's.

If you don't actually use Google+ you won't have anyone in your circles to see any of that tho, and if you do use G+ you can have multiple circles and not share this with anyone still...

OK, maybe fair enough - but I still don't want Google+, I don't want to be forced to link to Google+ to fully use (and participate in) unrelated apps or sites and I don't want what I do showing up in Google+, regardless of whether I have a Circle, or none, or many.
If the app was any good, people would migrate to it of their own accord, without it being imposed. Clearly that's not the case.

"What is Google +?"

A failed social network that won't leave me the heck alone, and inspires me to hate it even more constantly. It does not have growing user bases like it claims, it has made people, against their will, or unbeknownst to them, accounts and linked them automatically to other services they previously used.

It only looks like growth or activity because they try to count everything and everyone on YouTube as an active + member.

I'll admit, in the beginning, I tried and even kind of liked G+. And then I got bored and it wouldn't stop trying to take over everything I used.. so I deleted my account. Then at some point Google made me a new account without my permission and linked it to my Gmail and YouTube. Now I can't get rid of it without deleting services I've had since long before Google+ was even created. That is infuriating, dirty, and annoying.

Congratulations Google, you transformed what legitimately could have had potential into something that irks me so much I'm truly looking for alternatives to Android, YouTube, Gmail, and Google search just to escape you.

Btw I don't like Facebook or Apple either. in fact I might like fb even less (and I despise ios).. the thing is I'm not being shoved into Facebook at every turn, it sucks but at least I feel like I have the freedom to just avoid it whenever I want (often weeks at a time). G+ however feels like a stalker that won't go away, and increasingly basic functions have pop-ups to tell me I need to link or log in.

It's all in the presentation, and ironically if it would stop demanding I use it.. I actually might.

it actually sounds like you would enjoy hiding in a closet over social interaction and that's fine but it's also not google's fault...

Posted via Android Central App

What a useless and lazy response.

It seems like you'd rather sell your soul to marketing and hide behind a screen than talk to someone in person.

See how easy that was? No critical thought, all assumptions, contributes nothing to the conversation..

Well said, Microsoft Maelstrom single sign on died even before it was released because of the big brother stigma. They later toned it down and it became Microsoft Passport , and now it's called Microsoft Live sign in. People don't mind single sign on as long as doesn't force them to lose control what is done with their information, and that it's completely voluntary to use. Google+ wasn't doing well, so they tried to boost it buy making it a prerequisite for their services that were popular, like Youtube.

Right now I'm researching the Pro's and Con's of using G+ for single sign on. Now that I have 1Password for password management, losing my privacy to buy convenience isn't a compelling argument anymore.

I like it, but all my friends and family use Facebook and won't change. That's the biggest problem Google has with G+.

Posted via Android Central App

The old Google would have let it grow on its merits. If it was really good a blog entry like this one would have been enough.
Some of us loved Google because it was the alternative to the Apple and Microsoft that would force you into some of their products as a condition of using the other ones. You could use Search, Gmail, Latitude or Reader without using the other ones....with any alias. But Google conditioned usage of some products to having a Plus account and just destroyed others, like Latitude and move them to Plus. And, by entering into Plus you must agree to additional terms and conditions (older than 13, real name, etc.). This coercing was made just to promote Plus onto their existing customers. But this is exactly what their original customers hate the most. Of course, some other customers don't care about getting something shoved through their throats.
In the process, they even integrated services in a way that made them unusable by other populations. Take for example the Game Center. Would it surprise anybody that kids like playing Android games? And they like playing together even more. That is why Nintendo , Minecraft (game makers that care about kids needs) make it so easy to multiplay with their siblings and close friends. But with the Google Game Center multiplayer gaming require a Google+ account (a gmail account from a family-owned GApps domain is not enough). Since Plus is 13+, younger kids cannot multiplay.
Also, I feel it very creepy that I can see the apps that my no-so-close acquaintancs have installed and rated.
Google handle most of our private lives. Having a social network at the same time is a clear conflict of interest, in my book.
Google Plus is not bad. It is pretty good, actually, and much better than the other closed social network (Facebook). However it is a product that is not compatible with their other products. If you want to spy and data mine all my life, please keep it to you, your employees and the government. Don't share it with my acquaintances too. Don't even create the possibility...not even the impression. In the corporate world this is called separation of responsibilities.

The only drwback I've found compared to Facebook is the way the comments are handled. I find it awkward when attempting a conversation with several people.

Funny I use Facebook to keep up with family and friends but use Google+ for professional social network and technical development. I am an engineer

Posted via Android Central App

AC, you really shouldn't support and condone cancerous, net-destructive and anti-people systems such as google+.
The people clearly let google know that google+ is not welcome or acceptable, by not signing up to it. And then google went and locked everyone out of features such as google play reviews unless they join 100%.
This is not what we do on planet earth, and google+ must perish, or go back to the way it was.

For people whose lives are already irreversibly public, it doesn't matter and of course they won't care (such as the author of this article), but there's no reason the other 90% of the world should have to cast their real name out there next to everything they say on the web. Anything that is free in life (in this case information) gets abused.

Google+ may be great for 'public citizens', executives, entertainers, promoters, bloggers and all other manner of corporate networking types whose name is printed somewhere every other week, but for 'private citizens' it's just not viable, it doesn't enrich their lives at all (nor do anything they couldn't do already) while dumping huge amounts of information out there for all manner of undesirables to peruse and exploit (such as google, as well as other people).

Funny thing with private citizens, your not so private when your in a social network, period. I'll tell you who Google+ is not for... Those, who want to post how they woke up, what they ate, who they just broke up with, and who only post photos, typically sporting a duck face. And even though you ended up using Google+ to utilize services like the play store, it does not mean you have to use it nor its functions.

I only use it on my tablet. It drains the battery on my phones so bad I have to disable it!

Posted via Android Central App

I was enjoy G+ until this douche spoiled the ending of a game to me so I quit. Better not join any these movies/ games community where they're gonna spoil everything.

Also it might not be the most popular social networking site but it's the second most popular.

Posted via Android Central App

I feel like Google forces you to use it. Never even touched it until they started integrating YouTube comments into it.

Posted via Android Central App

That's exactly why I stopped posting comments on YouTube. Kinda feel like my freedom of speech is being imposed on but I suppose somewhere in the terms of agreements, it's written somewhere. :/

Posted via HTC One on Sprint

It's simple: I don't know anybody who uses it, so I have zero incentive to bother. There is absolutely no point "recruiting" people and I don't even feel strongly enough to try. I'm sure it works great for plenty of people. I'm not one of them. You can tout the advantages until you are red in the face and it ultimately won't make a lick of difference...because it wouldn't just be me you'd have to tell, but everyone I know (who doesn't use it either).

i didn't know a single person on it when i started using it... i also had a limited group of people i knew on facebook when i joined in 2004, i believe,

Posted via Android Central App

I don't use "social media", just not my thing. So unfortunately, all Google + has done is keep me from using more Google products that require a Google + account. I currently use a lot of other Google products but if they keep adding this as a requirement I will definitely find other services to replace Google's.

Google Plus can bite my behind, because it's preventing me from leaving Android app reviews, and using 90% of what Youtube has to offer. If they keep embedding it into everything, I might just say "screw it" and convert to Apple. Scary, I know.

Google Talk forever, "hangouts" can bite me too.

If G+ Would repost my G+ posts to facebook and twitter I would use it exclusively! Or... wishing tweetdeck would post to G+ that would solve it as well! If anyone knows how to this already with some service let me know...

Don't use social media and don't even use Google's search app anymore. Decided when I got my LG G3 to see what android without Google was like. Its great.

Steve/Boanerges Performance

this article claims that the g+ requirement for youtube comments is gone. but when i click the comment box on a youtube video i still get a popup that says i must make a g+ page. ?

The difference now is that you can use any names for the G+ page rather then your real name, but it is still a freaking requirement.

I used Google+. I like it! Can Google create a universal high quality Google+ app for Windows platform? Please? Hehe :)

Posted via Android Central App

At first I thought g+ was useless but then I started checking it out more I have come to realize that I actually prefer it over Facebook.

Posted via Android Central App

I think it's cool, I've been checking things out and Alot of information is interesting, I'm looking and learning more and more. Keep going.