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At this point, you've probably heard of Google+. But if you're anything like us, you're still not sure exactly how it works. Below, the what and why of the new social-networking platform.

What it is: Google+ is an online community designed to connect you with friends, co-workers, long-lost ex-boyfriends and the like. As with Facebook, you create a profile, upload photos and "friend" others. It's currently still in beta and requires an (easy-to-get) invitation to join.

How it's different: Whereas Facebook's privacy settings are notoriously complicated, Google+ is committed to keeping your assistant from seeing pictures of you poolside. By categorizing connections into "circles" (like "colleagues" or "family"), you can easily limit who sees what. We also like the site's "hangout" option which allows group video chatting. But we're perhaps most intrigued by the "sparks" newsreader feature; Unlike Facebook's "news" feed that chronicles friends' personal minutia, Sparks delivers a stream of stories from around the web tailored to your interests (health, economy, etc.). You can still read Aunt Mildred's musings, but you can also get actual news.

The verdict: Google+ isn't radically different from Facebook, but it is more streamlined and adult--and worth joining for a social-media reboot.

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