Google+ Is Google's Answer to the Facebook Threat

By Lucian Parfeni on June 29th, 2011 07:51 GMT

Google's social network that the company hasn't been building for almost a year now it's finally hatching. Of course, even now, Google will deny that this is a social network and, in a sense, it's not, it goes beyond the scope of something like Facebook, but it is, at its core, very similar to the giant social network.

Google+, the project unveiled today, is a big push which is designed to improve all of Google's products, hence the "+" in the name.

"Today, the connections between people increasingly happen online. Yet the subtlety and substance of real-world interactions are lost in the rigidness of our online tools," Vic Gundotra, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Google, who has been leading social efforts at the company, wrote.

"We’d like to bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software. We want to make Google better by including you, your relationships, and your interests. And so begins the Google+ project," he announced.

Now, Google has only revealed several products that are part of Google+ and all have sharing and communication at their core.

Google stresses that what it unveiled today is only part of Google+. What's more, while the announced products are going live, it will be a very limited trial. You can put your name on the list, but it may be a while before you get an invitation.

For now, Google+ is made up of three core products, unveiled today, and the mobile components along with some integration into Google' other products, search in particular, with the +1 button for example.

+Circles

Circles, or Google+ Circles if you want the full nomenclature, is probably the most important component of Google+, from a social point of view, the place where you manage all of your contacts, be them friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances and so on.

Google separates all of your contacts depending on how you relate to them and, while asking users to group their friends has been tried before, with little success, the simple and intuitive interface Google has built may do the trick.

+Sparks

The next product to be announced, Sparks, is all about sharing and interests. It's more focused on you than anything else Google unveiled. In essence, it asks users to list some of the things they like or are interested in and Sparks will try to surface content that will be relevant to their interests.

The discovery part is just half of the equation, the other half is sharing that content with just the right friends, the ones that have the same interest in whatever it is that Google has found for you.

+Hangouts

Next up is is a group video chat app, Hangouts. While group video chat is nothing new, Hangouts does a couple of smart things. For one, you'll only be bothered if you're feeling chatty, you have to indicate that you're in the mood for some conversation.

If more of your friends want to hang out, you can get together and start a conversation, share content, watch YouTube clips together and so on. People can join and leave the conversation at any time.

+Mobile

Finally, Google+ has a strong mobile component. There will be applications for both Android and the iPhone. For one, the app enables you to add a location to anything you share or send.

Another core feature is Instant Upload, any photo you take can be automatically uploaded to the cloud so you can view it and share it from any device any time.

Finally, on the mobile front, there's the +Huddle group messaging app, which makes it easy to strike a conversation with several of your friends, even if all of your friends don't have an internet connection at that moment.

"That’s the Google+ project so far: Circles, Sparks, Hangouts and mobile. We’re beginning in Field Trial, so you may find some rough edges, and the project is by invitation only. But online sharing needs a serious re-think, so it’s time we got started. There’s just one more thing—really the only thing: You," Gundotra concluded.


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