Quick question: Who invented the light bulb? If you answered Thomas Edison, then unfortunately you are starkly mistaken. The incandescent lightbulb as we know it was invented by British Physicist, Sir Joseph Wilson Swan. (Sir Humphry Davy pioneered the concept) Edison began his experiments nearly a decade later, vastly improving the life of the filament and its pragmatic scope.
So why does history and your fifth grade teacher remember Edison as the 'lightbulb guy'? Because he commercialized the lightbulb. He made it economically viable for homes, offices and public spaces to be lit by this futuristic lighting. Edison and his electric company created the electricity supply market and brought the power of moving electrons to the public. And that is why history recollects Edison as the lightbulb man; because Edison created an environment conducive to incandescent lighting.
A century later, a completely new generation of pioneers, the brilliant brains behind Google, look to pull of a similar historical hijack. Over the last decade Google has created myriad range of products that provide convenient, pertinent and fruitful services to millions of Internet users everyday. From e-mails (Gmail), organizing (Calendar), photo sharing (Picasa), scholarly research (Scholar and Books), to your mobile phone (Android) there is a Google product to suit each of your necessities and more. With Google+, the company simply looks to leverage its grasp on the internet market place and very effortlessly foray into the lucrative market of social networking, all this while simple re-enforcing, consolidating and integrating its existing line of products. Ensuring that, while they may be late on the social network game, they will not be diminished in memory a few decades from now.
Instead of comparing Google+ to competing services head on, lets look at what it brings to the table for Google and their 'consumers'. It takes multiple products which weren't precisely market leaders, and turns their technologies into stepping stones for Google+. Picasa, for example, wouldn't stand ground against Filckr. But by integrating Picasa services seamlessly into the Plus network, its gets a new lease at life with a new mission. Similarly, lessons learned from the unsuccessful Wave network manifest themselves everywhere. Hangouts to Huddles, everything makes communicating with a group easier than ever. Google's dominant position in the mobile operating system market only arguments the usefulness of Google+, with their mobile application integrating the best of various prevalent services like Foursquared and Twitpic to name a few. (Check-ins anyone?)
One thing that instantaneously strikes the user is the sheer utility, neatness and intuitiveness of the User Interface, be it on the desktop, tablet or an Android powered mobile phone. (Sorry iOS, on application for you as of now.) The interface is smooth, clean and aesthetic. The beauty of the photo galleries, the rolling animation of the circles, and the little animations that play when you +1 a post, every small detail accrues your delight. A bouquet to Google's UI designers. Most of the UI is functional across browsers, though you might run into some niggles with Opera, but nothing drastic.
Google+ is a refreshing take on the social network which helps usher in a new era of idea and experience sharing. It extends Google's communication portfolio, functions as a master class in user interface design, rejuvenates weaker products by assigning new roles to them and most importantly, give Mark Zuckerberg sleepless nights.