Sparking a Conversation
Since this is a Google product, you'd expect there to be some kind of search capability in Google+, and you'd be right. Sparks is billed as a way to find interesting tidbits to share online. It comes with 10 preset categories, including Recipes (a personal favorite), Fashion, Movies and Soccer (?), but you can enter any term you find interesting, and instantly get a page filled with relevant items from the Web. If there's a topic you find particularly interesting (the name of your favorite sports team, for example), you can save it to appear on-screen for future one-click access. Granted, this isn't radically different from opening a separate browser window and performing a Google search, but the convenience factors of one-click searching and easy sharing of results with your friends are both welcome features.
Where Is Everybody?
While we've been through the basics, there's more to explore as you get involved with Google+, including an excellent free app for Android phone users (an iPhone version is coming soon) that not only lets you read and write posts while on the go, but can automatically upload any photos you take with your phone to a private online folder.
There are also some useful Facebook features missing from Google+, including the option to send a private message to an individual, and the ability to invite people to an event. And coming from the biggest search company on the planet, it seems odd that Google+ doesn't let you search for key words in incoming posts. To be fair, though, Google says that the current version of Google+ is a work in progress, so who know what's coming in the weeks and months ahead.
The biggest element missing from Google+ today, of course, is all your friends. In just a week, Google+ boomed from a handful of tech journalists invited in to kick the tires to several million.