Google announced Tuesday the launch of a new social network, called Google +, or Google Plus, which aims to take on Facebook. As Hayley Tsukayama reported:
Google’s been trying to crack the social market for years, running into false starts with content-sharing services Wave and Buzz. (The former fizzled and the latter set off a privacy complaints that ended with a lawsuit and an FTC settlement.) Many have been waiting for Google’s big push into social since it rolled out its +1 button in March, especially as Facebook gets cozy with its search rival, Microsoft.
And then, today, Google announced +. The site bears a striking resemblance to Facebook, with streaming feeds and specialized groups of friends. In fact, Google + gathers many of the features of existing social networks.
The network has five basic components: Circles, Sparks, Hangouts, Instant Uploads and Huddle. It also requires a Google profile, meaning you’ll need to provide Google, at minimum, with a name and a photo.
Circles lets you group your contacts — e.g. friends, work, family. Like Facebook, this features lets you share information with groups of contacts instead of hitting everyone with your latest update at once. Sparks acts like an RSS reader or Facebook news feed, letting you input things you’re interested in and pushing relevant content to you. Hangouts features live group video chats, aiming to foster spontaneous meetings with up to 10 people. You can also alert certain groups of friends when you’re hanging out.
Instant Uploads takes care of the increasingly important mobile aspect of social networking, automatically posting users’ phone pictures and videos to a private album. From there, users can decide if and with whom they want to share their media. You also have the option to add location data to every Google + post.
And Huddle is a group texting feature — similar to Beluga, which Facebook acquired in March — that lets you have a group chat through your phone.
Some analysts are asking whether Google expansion into the social media sphere is a bad move. TechCruch guest contributor Semil Shah asked the same question:
Today’s soft-launch of Google’s new social galaxy, Google+, raises one interesting question: Can Google, a massive, multinational, cash-rich, consumer technology company with multiple successful productivity applications and services, take its dough out of the oven and bake a social network into their bread?
Over the past year, Google has undergone some big changes. Chief Executive Eric Schmidt stepped down. Co-founder Larry Page stepped in, reshuffling the deck and tying employee bonuses to creating a successful social experience. The result seems to be a slick-looking yet potentially Wave-like confusing constellation of social “circles,” “huddles,” “hangouts,” and ”sparks” that could, theoretically, lay the foundation for new, more nuanced social networks to form. In the middle of all the reactions to today’s release, I believe it’s important to step back and ponder whether Google is focusing its efforts on the wrong problem, and in doing so, to investigate a potentially better fit that coincides with the company’s own DNA.