Google+ does incorporate some other Google Services such as Picasa Web Albums (you can choose whether or not to link to your existing albums or not), while there's full location information (like Facebook Places) but powered by Google Latitude.

You can also add videos from YouTube or upload them directly from Google+. Google Talk is also integrated into the sidebar (it's not branded as that at all and is just called Chat). There's also total dedication to Google+1 – you can +1 any updates on the service (like Facebook's like button) or reshare anything.

Well, most things – there's a clever option to disable resharing on anything you post to ensure it doesn't go beyond your chosen person or Circle. A great little touch. There's no twitter-style direct messaging – though you could share an update with just one person.

The Photos section of Google+ is quite basic at the moment - here it's simply pulled in our albums from Picassa Web Albums. You can also view Photos from your Circles - which initially will just be most people's profile pictures.

Google+

Photos circles

You also have a personal Profile page (which replaces your standard Google Profile). Unless you choose to prevent it, your Profile is searchable on the web and comes high up in personal web searches. Our advice? Make sure it's sanitised.

Google+

Here's our public profile.

Google+

Once you're signed up to the service, Google+ appears in the toolbar at the top of Google search pages as well as in Gmail and other services that Google provides.

Google+

This is the biggest indication that Google is serious about Plus – it's deeply integrated into the core Google experience in a way that Wave and the rest just weren't – you even get Facebook-style notifications in the Google nav bar too as well as a box that enables you to share something instantly.

Google+

Google+

Google Buzz is present on your Profile Page and appears to be the way Google intends for you to import other services into your profile – there's currently no other way to have a feed of your Tweets, for example. Google+ does keeps emailing you notifications like Buzz, though there are some options for these – we've chosen to filter them in Gmail instead.

It's not all about competing with Facebook though - an interesting feature is Hangout, which enables you to group video chat with your contacts as well as group instant message and share funny YouTube videos – these play within the hangout.

First you need to install the Google voice and video plug-in if you don't have it already.

Google+

Then you can Hangout in a shared window with an IM chat window at the side.

Google+

You're also able to watch YouTube videos at the same time. Hangout is OK, but we think you're much more likely to use Skype for this kind of thing.

Google+

Then there's a bit of an odd feature called Sparks. It's essentially a refined version of Google search that enables you to access things of interest on a particular topic.

You add your interests and off you go. Unfortunately in this early implementation of Google+, the focus seems off kilter and, far from being the "feed of highly contagious content" promised by Google, the feeds we searched for contained a lot of content with poor interest levels. A search for Manchester United, for example, piled on the summer transfer talk but also added some rubbish wallpaper links. Must do better.

Sparks