After many, many rumors, Google has finally taken the lid off its social networking effort: The Google+ Project, designed to bring the "subtlety and substance of real-world interactions" to "awkward" and "rigid" online communications and sharing. It's in "field trial" currently, with an invitation needed to access this early version
The Google+ Project tries to address the perceived shortcomings of networks like Facebook in a few ways, according to the official Google blog entry:
- +Circles: Modern social networks make everyone a "friend," but most people keep their work lives, their family lives, and their social lives separate. So rather than make every single update go to every single person, just define which Circle everyone belongs to and share whatever you'd like with the audience it's intended for - without any danger of your boss accidentally seeing something they shouldn't.
- +Sparks: Add your interests, and Google returns relevant content from across the web - and a few clicks will start a conversation about the link with the circles you choose.
- +Hangouts: Flag yourself as available, and anyone who wants can initiate a live multi-user video or text chat with you. Google's promoting it as a lot more "casual" than traditional instant messaging and chat features since it's drop-in, drop-out according to availability.
- +Mobile: Like Twitter, you can tag your posts to The Google+ Project with your location. But more interestingly, +Mobile will also add your smartphone pictures to the Google cloud in real-time to promote sharing. And you can send messages to entire Circles at once from the app. It's only available for the Android Market right now, but Google promises an Apple iTunes App Store release coming soon.
My invitation hasn't arrived yet (call me, Google), so I can't speak to the usefulness Google+ personally. But it seems like Google is trying to build a smaller, more personal social network that doesn't value massive amounts of friends so much as it does connecting with people you want to talk to.
Of course, that's exactly what Google's PR machine is getting at. There's no word on Google+'s privacy settings as of yet, which is going to be the question on a lot of people's lips. And despite the buzz (no pun intended) Google+ is sure to garner, it has its work cut out if it wants to take a chunk of Facebook's market share. But with a billion monthly visitors
, Google's starting from a position of power.