Features and Functions
A Google + User profile is a public visible account of a user that is attached to many Google properties. It includes basic social networking services like a profile photo, about section, background photo, cover photo, previous work and school history, interests, places lived and an area to post status updates. It also includes several identity service sections, such as a contributor and other profiles area that let one link their "properties across the web". These section optionally link to other social media accounts one has, any blogs one owns or have written or sites one is a contributor to. This area is used for Google Authorship. Customized or Vanity URLs were made available to the public starting on October 29, 2013 to any account that is 30+ days old and has a profile photo and at least 10 followers. Google removed author photos from search results in June 2014 and in August 2014 Google has stopped showing authorship in search results, both photo and author name.
Circles is a core feature of the Google + Social Platform. It enable users to organize people into groups or lists for sharing across various Google products and services. Organization of circles is done through a drag-and-drop interface. Once a circle is created, a Google+ user can share specific private content to only that circle. For example, work themed content can be shared with only colleagues, and one's friends and family could see more personal content and photos. The option to share Public or with Everyone is always available. Since September 26, 2011 users can share Circles; it's a one-time share, so if the creator of the Circle updates the members, people's shared copies won't be updated. Another function of Circles is to control the content of one's Stream. A user may click on a Circle on the left side of the page and the Stream portion of the page (the center) will contain only posts shared by users in that Circle. For the unsegmented Stream (includes content from all of a user's Circles), each Circle has a "slider" configuration item with four positions: nothing, some things, most things, and everything. The nothing position requires the user to select (click on) the Circle name explicitly to see content from users in that Circle. The everything setting as its name implies filters nothing out from people in that Circle. The remaining two positions control the quantity of posts which appear in one's main Stream, but the algorithm controlling what shows has not been disclosed.
In the "Stream", which occupies the middle of three columns on the page, users see updates from those in their Circles. There is an input box which allows users to enter a post. Along with the text entry field there are icons to upload and share photos and videos. The Stream can be filtered to show only posts from specific Circles. Hangouts and Hangouts On-Air Hangouts are free video conferencing calls with up to 10 people, done through the Google+ website or mobile app. Many apps can be used inside the hangout, allowing users to share documents, a scratchpad, or their screens with other users, as well as many built-in apps such as YouTube, Google Docs, and the new Capture. Third-party apps built using the Hangout API are also available
Google+ has a "+1 button" to allow people to recommend sites and parts of sites, similar in use to Facebook's Like button.
Google+ Pages was released on November 7, 2011 to all users, which allows businesses to connect with fans. It allows entities which are not individuals (such as organizations, companies, and publications) to set up profiles, or "pages", for the posting and syndication of posts. It is similar to Facebook Pages.
Google+ Badges was quietly introduced to select enterprises beginning November 9, 2011 and officially released to the public on November 16. Badges are sidebar widgets which embed "Add to Circles" buttons and drop-down lists into off-site websites and blogs, similar to Facebook's Like Box widgets. This was officially treated by Google as a replacement for the older Google Friend Connect and its widgets, and GFC was announced by Senior Vice President of Operations Urs Hölzle on November 23, 2011, as scheduled to be retired by March 12, 2012 on all non-Blogger sites in favor of Google+ Page Badges.
Google+ Views was introduced on April 1, 2014. It features a "view counter", which is displayed on every user’s profile page. The view counter shows the number of times the user's content has been seen by others, including photos, posts, and profile page.
Google+ Communities: Released December 6, 2012, Google+ Communities allow users to create ongoing conversations about particular topics. Google+ Communities can also be created and managed under Google+ Page accounts.
Google+ Events: Released at Google I/O on June 27, 2012, Google+ Events allows users to add events, invite people, and then share photos and media in real-time from the event. The program is integrated with Google Calendar, and is posed as a direct competitor to similar features offered by Facebook.
"What's hot" Stream, introduced on October 27, 2011, is a stream showing what Google+ users have commented, shared and interacted with the most. It is similar to "Trending Topics" On Twitter.
On June 11, 2014, Google combined Google Places and Google+ Local Business Pages with the Google My Business product. The product uses the interface of Google+ but has many more features including insights and analytics. On May 30, 2012, Google Places was replaced by Google+ Local, which now integrates directly with the Google+ service to allow users to post photos and reviews of locations directly to its page on the service. Additionally, Google+ Local and Maps also now feature detailed reviews and ratings from Zagat, who was acquired by Google in September 2011.