Google finally did it. After years of talking about it, half starts, quarter starts, lies, misdirection, and probably at least one pizza party, Google+ has gone beta. What is Google+? It’s Google’s answer to Facebook, a social network that looks and feels and acts the way we all expect from a Google product.

So what makes it different?

What Google+ Looks Like
The Look of Google+
Well, it’s a little hard to tell everything that’s going on because it’s not the densely populated metropolis that is Facebook, but the most obvious difference is the Circles. The G+ Circles are the way you split up the people in your life. You can put your boss into your “coworkers” circle, put your husband or wife into your “friends” and your “family” (yep, you can put people in more than one circle), and the creepy guy who insisted on adding you to his circles into the “creepy guy” circle (or into no circle, but people can tell when you haven’t added them to anything).

And the reason this is important is that when you post something on G+, you pick the circles that can see it. That means if you’re bragging about playing hooky from work you can post about being at the Cubs game in your “friends” circle and complain about the food poisoning you got in your “coworkers” circle, and people can only see what you let them see.

The best part? People don’t know what circle(s) you put them in, so there are no hurt feelings and emails asking why your college roommate is only your “acquaintance” or why your boss isn’t also your “friend”.

Go ahead, send your “friends” an note about how you’re having a 4th of July Barbeque but keep your in-laws out of the loop.

The other thing that sets G+ apart from Facebook is the integration with the other Google products. You can already use Gchat within G+. But beyond that, whenever you’re using a Google product (like Reader, search, Gmail) the bar at the top of the screen will let you see if you have any notifications, allow you to post something to G+, or jump right to G+ from where you are.

This integration is where it can really differentiate itself from Facebook. If I think of something to say I don’t have to open a new tab, load up Facebook, log in, and post. By then, I’ve pretty much forgotten what I was doing and am just looking at pictures of my friends’ babies.

Will Google+ kill Facebook? I think that making sweeping statements like that about a product that’s only been in beta for like two days is a little premature, but as of now I definitely like it more than Facebook. Let’s see how I feel about it at the end of the month when I post a follow up on my experience with G+.