Well, the Google+ Project is here (sort of - they're rolling it out slowly to high influencers first) and I don't know what to make of it.
Yes, this is different than +1, which was introduced publicly a few weeks ago. Yes, it (seemingly) is yet another thing you have to try to fit into your life. Yes, this is their answer to Facebook.
Don't get me wrong. I don't have a beta invitation. I'm looking at the same information as everyone else. But I have to say, I'm a bit overwhelmed.
There are five different projects within the whole: +Circles, +Sparks, +Hangouts, +Mobile, and +Huddle.
Ai yi yi!
+Circles was announced (or leaked?) at South by Southwest this year and this is our first inkling of how it will actually work. It's really the same as the lists you create in Facebook. You create circles of friends: Family, acquaintances, social media friends, business colleagues, etc. And you drop people into those circles based on the type of information you'd like them to have about you. Then you update them with information, at different times, that doesn't go to everyone. For instance, I'm very careful about talking about my travel plans online. But I could update my family Circle really easily without fear that a stranger will see it.
+Sparks is like the discussion groups of old. You type in a topic of something you love - cycling, food, wine, shoes - and then you share the information you've found. Other people, from around the world who share those same passions, can comment and create conversation around your topic. The +1 button is pretty prevalent in +Sparks; it's used as the "like" button is on Facebook.
The idea behind +Hangouts is you can quickly "hang out" with people who, at that moment, are online. So, rather than scheduling a Skype call or a Facetime chat, you go into your Circles, see who is available and begin chatting on-screen. They use the word "bored" in their promotion; people who are bored can quickly find someone to chat with without having to schedule time.
+Mobile is a way to share photos and videos, just like you do on Facebook. But you can share with people in your Circles or, with your permission, Google will upload them to a private cloud where people with similar interests can view them. It's Facebook + Pinterest.
+Huddle is group messaging that allows you to update everyone at once, if there are any changes. So think about evites with a way to update everyone at the last minute should it rain. Or if the location sucks. Or if there is an emergency. This is the most promising of all of the features; it's not something you can easily do through Facebook.
What Does All of this Mean?
I think the biggest thing they're saying here is: How you develop your networks is up to you. They'll never create a new feature and give it to everyone, making you opt out. But it is another social network. Granted you have more control, but while it's seemingly more private, it's still Google and everything you say and do online lives on forever.
As soon as I get my beta invitation (if I get a beta invitation??), I'll do the work to help you figure out if this is for you.
For now, though, it's just coming soon.
P.S. I recommend watching the videos they have about each feature. You can find them by clicking here.