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Is Google+ for You?

New social network may give Facebook a run for its money

Video Chat

Google came up with an ingenious way for users to socialize face-to-face via webcam, using the Hangout feature. To get started, simply click the green "Start a hangout" button on the right side of the screen. You get to choose whether you want to connect only with particular Circles or if anyone is welcome. Then your webcam fires up, and an invitation to join you online is delivered to the folks you chose. When someone takes you up on your offer to schmooze, their webcam image joins yours onscreen and you're ready to chat — very quick and simple.

And you're not limited to one-to-one conversations — as many as 10 people can hang out together at once. The person speaking is automatically featured in a large image at the top of the screen, while smaller images of the other participants are shown below. It's a wonderful way for families or friends to socialize across the miles, and it works very well. I tried it with several friends, using nothing more than the built-in cameras and microphones on our laptop computers, and was impressed with the crisp video and clear audio. Facebook recently announced a partnership with Skype that allows one-to-one video conversations, but the group dynamic offered by Google+ is a lot more fun.

View of a Google+ profile page. Posts can be edited, commented on, +1'ed (similar to

In Google+ profile pages, posts can be edited, commented on, +1'ed (similar to "liking" a post), shared, and much more. The layout/color scheme is even more minimal in comparison to Facebook.

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