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Wednesday June 29, 2011 8:39 am

Google takes aim at Facebook with Google+




Posted by Andru Edwards Categories: News, Social Networks

Google on Tuesday took another leap into the social space with Google+, which aims to connect people via specific friendship circles, interests, location, and more.

Google+, which is currently operating via a "field trial," has four main components: Circles, Sparks, Hangouts, and Mobile.

"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 said in a blog post.

Google+ begins with Circles, which helps compartmentalize all the people in your life. Google took a swipe at Facebook, arguing that putting everyone under the "friends" label hurts the ability to share. It becomes sloppy, scary, and insensitive, the search giant said.

"From close family to foodies, we found that people already use real-life circles to express themselves, and to share with precisely the right folks. So we did the only thing that made sense: we brought Circles to software," Google said. "Just make a circle, add your people, and share what's new—just like any other day."

Now that you have your friends sorted into Circles, what are you going to talk about? With Sparks, the idea is to connect with people on topics that interest you both. "It's still too hard to find and share the things we care about—not without lots of work, and lots of noise," Google said.

The company promised a "feed of highly contagious content from across the Internet" so you'll always have something to watch, read, or share "with just the right circle of friends."

What if you're not sure what you want to chat about? Hangouts, a video-chat option, basically lets people know that you're available and ready to talk. Google argued that traditional instant message or chat services are annoying and awkward: you're inevitably interrupting someone and if they don't respond, are they not there or just ignoring you?

"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," Google said.

Given the popularity of Android, meanwhile, it's not surprising Google+ includes a mobile component. Despite the recent uproar over location-based services, Google+ will allow you to add your location to every post (or not) to create more relevant conversations.

Taking a queue from iCloud, meanwhile, Instant Upload will add camera phone snaps "to a private album in the cloud" as you take pictures, provided you give the OK. "Pictures are meant to be shared, not stranded," Google said.

Meanwhile, Google+ also includes a group messaging option known as Huddle.

Google is currently testing the project with a small number of people, but you can sign up to be notified when it opens to a larger group. The company said Google+ is also available today on the Android Market and mobile Web, and is coming to the Apple App Store soon.

The announcement comes the same week that Google opened up its +1 sharing button globally. The feature lets you recommend certain Web sites with the click of a button, much like you might "like" something on Facebook.

Google, of course, has not had the best of luck with its social efforts. In March, the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement with Google regarding its Buzz social-networking service that requires the search giant to develop a comprehensive privacy program and submit to regular audits of its privacy policies. Specifically, Google will be subject to independent privacy audits every two years for the next 20 years. The company is also banned from misrepresenting the privacy of its customers' data, and must obtain consent before sharing user information with third parties.

Google Wave, meanwhile, which allowed users to share images and other media in real time, was killed off in August 2010, about a year after its debut.

In recent months, Google has insisted that it will not launch a separate social network to compete with the likes of Facebook, but instead integrate social components into existing products. Stay tuned for PCMag's hands-on with Google+ to see if that is still the case.

This article, written by Chloe Albanesius, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc.

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