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.
Check out Google’s explanation of the network here:
There’s essentially nothing in Google + that doesn’t already exist in another Web service, and so the company is probably hoping that adopters will want to move their social efforts to one, centralized location.
Will you be trying Google +?