Heard about Google+?

It's pretty much Google's answer to Facebook, a new social networking hub created by Google for Google users. Right now, it's just in a trial period and available by invitation only. Here's a quick look at some of the features of Google+ that are worth mentioning:

1.) Circles
With Circles, you can split up your contacts list into different groups, such as "Friends," "Family," "Work Buddies," or whatever you want to call your "circle." What I like is that you can share things like pictures, videos and links with just one circle, as opposed to placing a photo or video on your Facebook page where everybody can see it. It's also, in my opinion, much more interactive and simpler than putting people in a list on Facebook.

2.) Hangouts
Hangouts are sort of like instant video chats with friends. Basically, you let people know you're online, then sit back and watch your friends pop up to say hello. It's kind of like Skype video chating, only more spontaneous and simpler.

3.) Instant Uploads
Just like it sounds, this feature will instantly upload photos and videos from your phone to your Google+ page, eliminating the need to pull the pictures off your phone, put them on the computer, and then upload them to your page (which is what I have to do with Facebook.)

4.) Sparks
This is the feature that I think puts the Google in Google+. If you enter a keyword in the Sparks search bar, such as "fashion" or "cooking," it will bring up a whole slew of stories and websites related to your keyword. If you add the word to your Sparks list, you can bring up that list of sites and stories anytime you want. You can then either check them out at your leisure, send them out to your "circles," or do whatever you like with the info.

5.) Huddle
Huddle is by far my favorite feature. It allows you to text all the friends in your circle at once, in real time. This is a great feature if you're trying to plan an outing like, say, meeting up at the movies or figuring out where to go eat tonight.

Like I said before, Google+ is still in its trial phase, so it's possible that some of these features could be tweaked or changed. But I really hope they don't change too much. I really like Google+, and once it becomes more readily available to the general public, I think this could be a real contender for Facebook.