You may have noticed the black bar on the top of Google and its properties, like Gmail. Yes, Google is sprucing up the look of its applications, but it is all part of a larger product rollout – Google+. This past week, on June 28th, Google announced its newest foray into social networking, and unveiled Google+. This new social media platform is currently invite-only, but one of us at Nina Hale was lucky enough to get an invite before new invites were cut off. If you are one of the lucky ones that also received an invite, this is what you could see: Google+ boasts several cool features that aren’t yet available on Facebook – namely group chat (Huddles) and video chat (Hangouts) for up to 10 people. Huddles uses the gchat group chat capabilities, and is also available on the Google+ mobile app (saves money and time on texting multiple people back and forth). However, one of the main differentiators is what Google calls circles. Circles is a way to easily organize and communicate with different groups of people, just like you would in real life. You can literally drag-and-drop your connections into circles. For example, if you want to boast about the crazy fun time you had at the party last night to your friends, but don’t want your coworkers or professional connections knowing about it, you can easily do this by only sharing with your post with your “Friends” circle. There are many other great features of Google+, and of course many kinks that need to be worked out, since it’s in early beta testing still, but what we are really interested in are the implications that Google+ has/will have on the social media and search landscape. Many people are clamoring about how Google+ is competing with Facebook, and whether it’s better or worse, but there are many other implications here apart from the apparent competition with Facebook: Google+ will also directly compete with Twitter – Google Circles are more like mono-directional Twitter follows, than the bi-directional Facebook Friend request. This means that just because you added someone to a circle, doesn’t mean that they have added you. Adding someone to your circle means that you are willing to share with them, and are interested in following their public posts. They may, or may not choose to add you to a circle of their own. Google has also ended the contract with Twitter, which imported real-time Twitter stream results into Google’s real-time search. Google has also stated that they plan on integrating the Google+ stream into this function. Social Search – Google is already the world’s biggest and most popular search engine by far, and Google+ already seems to be integrated with Google Search, which means that at some point Google will be able to use social mentions and links as factors in their search algorithm, to further personalize your search results, based on your social media sphere. Increased Reach and Seamless Integration– Google has many various web applications apart from search, and it is already integrating many of these services into the Google+ platform. For example, you can check into places using the Google+ mobile app, which is definitely an integration with Google Latitude; the Google profiles are integrated with Google+ profiles, and a good bet is that they will be one and the same at some point. The point here is that Google has a myriad of services/products that it can and will integrate with Google+ in the future, which will increase reach and provide more benefits to Google+ users In the meantime, You can sign up to get an invite here, or keep an eye open for an invite from one of your lucky friends that are already using it.