Google+: The search engine’s latest social attempt to ‘fix’ online sharing

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Google’s quest for social importance seems to be never ending. The search behemoth has launched its own social network, Google+, which is an extension of your Google profile.

A recent blog post by Vic Gundotra, Google’s Senior Vice President for Engineering, stated that “online sharing is awkward. Even broken,” and the Google team aims to fix this. This new service could be seen as Google’s answer to Facebook and a chance to prove that Google can be social.

At first sight, the service is very much like Facebook, it has a profile page, homepage and users can share videos, photos, links and location. Google+ is an aggregation of all your Google services.

This is not Google’s first attempt at a social networking service, its last major foray into social networking — Google Buzz, launched in February 2010 — spawned a slew of privacy complaints and led to a slap on the wrist from the US Federal Trade Commission.

Its most successful attempt, Orkut, is a social network that has seen very little popularity outside of Brazil and India.

Eric Schmidt, former Google chief executive, took responsibility for the company missing the wave when it came to making services social, saying “I screwed up,” while speaking at the the AllThingsD technology conference last month.

Google however seems to think it has found a way to win at social. It claims what makes this new service better than existing social networks is that it lets you share things with the people you want to share them with.

So far Google+ looks pretty interesting, it’s simplistic in design which is very Google. Comparing it with the likes of Facebook in the social networking sphere, it does have some features that make the service worth considering.

“The problem is that today’s online services turn friendship into fast food — wrapping everyone in ‘friend’ paper — and sharing really suffers,” said Gundotra.

To combat this “problem” the service groups friendships into different circles, such as friends, family, acquaintances and following. You can also create your own circle of just work friends and party friends. The cool thing about circles is that they are quite easy to use, just drag and drop. It’s much easier than creating a Facebook friends list or a Twitter list.

There are some other interesting features such as Sparks, what Google has called “online sharing engine”. Users can select their interests and Sparks will deliver feeds to their stream in 40 different languages. This could be seen as an extension of the earlier launched +1 button that the company added to its search feature.

There is also Hangouts, a feature that allows multi-person video chats with people in your circle, something that Facebook is yet to achieve so this is one in Google’s corner.

The mobile version of Google+ is quite easy to use. It has three unique features:

  • Instant photo uploads, this feature automatically uploads your photos from your mobile, this could be good or bad.
  • Google+ Huddle, this feature allows for group messaging everyone in your circle.
  • Location, which allows you to add you location to a “+” update, using Google maps.

Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of technology blog SearchEngineLand.com, said in a blog post it was “anyone’s guess” as to whether or not Google+ will be successful.

Google has attempted social so many times that you have to wonder if they are trying to one-up Facebook and own every corner of the internet.

The service is only available to a limited few at the moment as Google is still in a “Field Trial” stage of the project.

“If you’re happy using Facebook, there seems relatively little to make you want to switch over to Google+, at the moment,” said Sullivan, who received an early glimpse of the new service from Google.

“Perhaps if there are people who want a Facebook alternative, Google’s now got a core to build on for them.”

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