Google has unveiled its long-awaited social network, after months and months of rumors and speculation. It's already being greeted with a great deal of skepticism. It's called the Google+ Project.
Google says that online sharing is broken, and it aims to fix it. Really.
At the heart of it all is a "sharing engine" called "Sparks."
"Thanks to Google’s web expertise, Sparks delivers a feed of highly contagious content from across the Internet," the company says. "On any topic you want, in over 40 languages. Simply add your interests, and you’ll always have something to watch, read and share—with just the right circle of friends."
Here's more about that aspect:
You may recall during SXSW, when rumors came out that Google was launching something called Circles. Well, that's part of this. It's essentially to Google what friends lists and groups are to Facebook, but they're represented by actual circles, which you can drag and drop people into.
Vic Gundotra, Google SVP, Engineering writes on the Official Google Blog, explaining the thinking behind Circles. "We only want to connect with certain people at certain times, but online we hear from everyone all the time…Every online conversation (with over 100 “friends”) is a public performance, so we often share less because of stage fright…We all define 'friend' and 'family' differently—in our own way, on our own terms—but we lose this nuance online."
Circles is only part of it though. "Hangouts is another. "With Google+ we wanted to make on-screen gatherings fun, fluid and serendipitous, so we created Hangouts," says Gundotra. "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."
Of course there is a big mobile angle to all of this as well, which comes in the forms of location, instant uploads, and what Google calls "Huddle." Google+ lets you add your location to posts (if you want), and Google+ will add your photos to a private album in the cloud (with permission). Huddle, is a group messaging experience, which lets members of a circle "know what's going on".
Google has a tour of the product here.
Speaking with someone at Google, Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land was able to learn that Buzz is not integrated with Google+ at this point, and that anything you like with Google+ can be +1'd, but your friends on Google+ do not see them. Nothing from the +1 buttons apparently flow back to Google+, according to Sullivan. "It’s crazy," he writes. "It makes no sense. It’s as if Facebook launched its Like buttons but forgot to hook them up to flow information back into Facebook."
On the other hand, Google also reportedly told him that this is not a Facebook competitor.
Right now, Google + is in limited Field Trial. They're testing with a small number of people, but Google says it won't be long until the project is ready for everyone. We'll be covering developments regularly. I can pretty much guarantee that there will be much more to come.
Google+ is available as a download from the Android Market, as well as on the mobile web. It's coming soon to the App Store, Google says. Of course the app(s - Huddles is split into its own app after you download it) isn't very useful until you've acquired an invite.
Google has implemented a black bar across its properties, as pictured in some of the demo material for Google+. The "You" part, which is part of the project is missing, however, unless you've been invited.