This week, Google launched its own social network in an attempt to challenge Facebook with a service that ties together all its existing sites including Gmail. Google’s long expected second shot at taking on Facebook in the social networking space has arrived in the form of the Google+ Project. It has some interesting twists on the social networking model but is far from a Facebook-killer.
Google+ is structured in a remarkably similar way to Facebook, with profile pictures and news feeds forming a central core. However, a user's friends or contacts are grouped into specific circles of their choosing - as opposed to the common pool of friends typical on Facebook.
Google+ started rolling out to a limited number of users on Tuesday in what the company is calling a field trial. Only those invited to join will initially be able to use the service. Google did not say when it would be more widely available.
To create Google+, the company went back to the drawing board in the wake of several notable failures, including Google Wave and Google Buzz, a micro-blogging service whose launch was marred by privacy snafus. 'We learned a lot in Buzz, and one of the things we learned is that there's a real market opportunity for a product that addresses people's concerns around privacy and how their information is shared,' said Google spokesman Bradley Horowitz.
As with Facebook's service, Google+ has a central web page that displays an ever-updating stream of the comments, photos and links being shared by friends and contacts. A toolbar across the top of most of Google's sites - such as its main search page, its Gmail site and its Maps site - allows users to access their personalized data feed. They can then contribute their own information to the stream. Google+ will also offer a special video chat feature, in which up to ten people can jump on a conference call. And Google will automatically store photos taken on mobile phones on its Internet servers, allowing a Google+ user to access the photos from any computer and share them.
Want to try the service? Right now, it’s strictly invite only. Some press are being allowed in, along with others that Google hand picks. There’s no ETA on when wider invites will be available. Unusually, this isn’t being called a beta test or an experiment but rather a “field trial” that’s meant to finally gather some feedback from outside Google itself. The limited test is probably wise. It’ll give Google more time to discover things it might not have anticipated being problems, as was the case with Buzz.
For more detailed information and additional video tours of Google + click here.