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The new, social Google+

Google Plus aims to be the online version of your existing social circles (such as personal and professional ones and allowing them to stay separate), offering a lot of the same features as Facebook (as in Groups), but organized into “Circles” right up front. To them, it brings “Hangouts” (video chat), “Huddles” (group chat), and “Sparks” (as in conversation starters and talking points, a little like what people you follow do for you on Twitter). Here’s Google’s multimedia page describing it all. It’s still in beta, so for now most people who want to try it out have to leave their email address there for signup later. It’ll work best at first for Gmail users, tech analyst Charlene Li writes. “Take a look at your Gmail address book and you’ll see your top 20 contacts already identified. Google knows this, and also knows who you frequently email together [with] as a group (parents of your child’s class, book club, family reunion email list, etc.) and uses that information to drive the insight needed to suggest natural groups for you to form inside of Google+ Circles.” But, she adds, because Google “reads” your emails to serve up personalized ads with them, this development places fresh demands on the trust relationship between Google and its users. Layer users of Google Android mobile phones, and the trust levels need to go deeper, Li adds. Users will want to think about whether the tremendous benefits outweigh the privacy considerations (please see her post for her conclusions). [See also my ConnectSafely co-director Larry Magid's piece on this for his take and links to other coverage, including a Huffington Post piece on what Twitter users have been tweeting about Google+.]

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