A new social networking platform, Google+, was quietly announced yesterday on Google's blog which appears to directly target Facebook. It's currently operating via a "field trial" and aims to connect people via friendship circles, interests, location, and more.
I'm not one of the the chosen who is in Google's "field trial", but when I logged on to Facebook this morning I saw a post at the top of my news feed from one of my "friends" who is one of the chosen and is already sharing her enthusiasm for it. They are saying it's the "Social Network for Geeks" and my Facebook friend, Susan, certainly falls in that category. But it is kind of ironic that I first read about Google+ on Facebook.
In a blog post Google wrote yesterday they said "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." Google+ is comprised of four main components: Circles, Sparks, Hangouts, and Mobile.
They begin with Circles which helps to group and categorize your friends. "Not all relationships are created equal. So in life we share one thing with college buddies, another with parents, and almost nothing with our boss. The problem is that today’s online services turn friendship into fast food—wrapping everyone in “friend” paper—and sharing really suffers." Sounds like a direct hit at Facebook.
Sparks is an online sharing engine that helps to share content about the topics that interest you with the friends that are also interested. Google is using its web expertise to deliver content from across the Internet. "Simply add your interests, and you’ll always have something to watch, read and share—with just the right circle of friends."
Hangouts is basically a video-chat option that lets people know when you're available and want to talk. Google's rational is that the instant message and chat options are annoying and awkward because you never know if someone really isn't there or if they just don't want to respond to you. Many times I have left my Facebook page open while I'm working on something else and I'm interrupted by someone sending me an instant message, so I can relate. Google said "We wanted to make on-screen gatherings fun, fluid and serendipitous, so we created Hangouts. By combining the casual meetup with live multi-person video, Hangouts lets you stop by when you're free, and spend time with your Circles. Face-to-face-to-face".
Mobile is of course a big component given the popularity of Android. They have "focused on things like GPS, cameras, and messaging to make your pocket computer even more personal". You have the option of adding your location to every post through the GPS. Google also is enabling mobile photo uploads that puts your photos in a private album in "the cloud" for you. Huddle allows you to send group messages to help let everyone in a particular circle know what's going on.
Google+ is currently only available by invitation, but you can request an invite by signing up here. It is also available on the Android Market with a free app and will soon be coming to the Apple App store. Since I have a Droid phone I'm going to install it on my phone and check it out. Here's a screen shot of what it looks like on the phone.
So let the social network wars begin. Google has warned us that since it's new there will be bugs to work out. Here's a great overview from PC Magazine which includes various screen shots of the platform. With Facebook now unofficially at 750 million members it will not be easy for Google to catch up. But, it is Google. Let's hope Google+ doesn't end up like the "Wave".
If anyone reading this is one of the few testing out the new Google+, please share your first impressions with us. Also, do you think it be real competition for Facebook, or is it just too late?