Google+ lets you hang with a circle of friends


But there's a big difference between the Google+ stream and Facebook's News Feed. The Google+ stream is actually an accumulation of many separate streams -- one for each of your circles. On the left-hand side of the page, there's a list of all the circles that you've created. Click any of those circles, and you'll immediately see the individual stream for that circle. (You can see a feed from just one Friends list in Facebook, but it's not as obvious or easy to do.)

To create a circle, you click the Circles icon in the navigation bar at the top of the page. This brings you to a page that has pre-built labels for circles such as Friends, Family and Acquaintances. Above those circles is a collection of contacts (names and photos) gleaned from your Google Contacts list. Drag any contact into a circle to add them to that group. You can create a new circle by clicking the empty circle to the left of the other circles. All you have to do then is name it and drag contacts into it.

Thereafter, when you want to send a message, a photo, a video or a link to that group of contacts, just click that circle where it's listed on the left side of the main screen, and your message or media will be sent to every member of the circle. Clicking the circle also means that you'll see all messages and content related to that specific circle in your stream. And if you want to see all your messages and content from all your circles, just click on the word "Stream" in the left column.

You can also send a message to several circles simultaneously, to an individual (or several individuals), or just make it generally public. A contact can be part of more than one circle; if you send a message to both circles, that person will only get the message once.

This way of communicating is clearly superior to Facebook's "one-message-fits-all" approach. Not only will it be useful for communicating with friends and family, but because it lets you target who gets which types of messages, it can be useful for work as well.