Google announced a new social project, but this time they’re serious. Google+ will be the social network that Google expects to catch on this time, and it’s the service that they’re been rumored to be developing for over a year. It takes all your Google contacts and adds a level of sharing and organization that makes the Google experience more social than ever.

Google+ appears to be the rumored Google Circles social networking service that was the buzz of the South by Southwest Conference back in March.

The new Google product, Google+, is aimed at exploiting what has been considered a weakness of Facebook—that by default people using the social network share all their information with a large group of friends, including their work colleagues and acquaintances, rather than only their close personal friends. Numerous social-networking companies such as Path Inc. have sprung up to attract people who only wish to share information with smaller groups.

The Google+ project is in a “field trial period” meaning it is an invitation-only product and is expected to be made available more broadly in the future.

The effort to create what became Google+ started in earnest last February after Google’s social-networking service Google Buzz flopped with users, in large part after backlash that resulted from when it made email address books visible to other people. Last summer The Wall Street Journal reported that Google was developing a new Facebook rival.

What’s for sure is that Google has been under immense pressure to come up with an answer to Facebook, which has rapidly emerged as the vehicle for many netizens’ identities online. With “social search” and “social web advertizing” emerging quickly, Google has a huge financial interest in becoming that vehicle.


Circles, Hangouts and Sparks

So what is this new social networking service about? Google+ is made of three basic concepts: ‘Circles,’ ‘Hangouts,’ and ‘Sparks.’

Circles is Google+’s method for friends management. Google believes we organize our real life relationships I various kinds of circles (“close friends”, “wackos from college”, etc.), giving each circle a different set of rights to our personal information. That’s exactly what Circles is meant to do online, allowing you to form graphical circles of friends into which you can drag and drop new friends as you see fit. When posting content, Google+ allows you to select which circles can see the content.

Hangouts is basically a glorified video chat room. When logging onto the service, you can select to inform your contacts that you’re “hanging out.” “With Hangouts, the unplanned meet-up comes to the web for the first time,” the Google says.

Finally, Sparks is Google’s answer to social sharing. The feature asks for subjects that you’re interested in. After entering some interests, Sparks shows a list of content from across the web. At that point you can pick and choose from among the content and share it easily with any of your circles of friends.

Here’s a video that describes some of the features:

This isn’t Google’s first attempt at a social network, not by a long shot, and the tech world is understandably skeptical any time Google tries doing one. This one could be different, but it could go down in flames. You really never know with Google.


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