New Social Network Google+ Goes for Facebook's Throat

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Online search giant Google has announced new social network Google+, which takes clear aim at Facebook’s growing Internet empire.

Allowing small groups of friends to share streaming status updates, comments, photos and links, as well as send text messages and video chat, the service hopes to limit online interactions to conversation with trusted sources. Looking to provide greater security than Facebook, which shares news updates, snapshots and videos with large groups of acquaintances or the general public, Google+ aims to confine actions’ visibility to a smaller circle of friends.

Groups can be created based on relationships, hobbies or shared interests, making the service more conducive for book clubs, baking circles, families and those with shared interests, e.g. obsessive Morrissey fans. Sign up, and you receive a custom user profile that offers the option to share or hide or personal information such as birthdates and locations. Support for Google maps and images as well as importing Gmail contacts will also be integrated, as will options to skim Web articles and videos on varying topics via a feature called Sparks. A Hangouts group video chat option will additionally allow friends to simultaneously videoconference with multiple parties. Accessible via a toolbar that appears on all Google sites, Google+ will also be offered on Android or iPhone smartphones, which can upload pictures and video to online albums.

Offering a running stream of news updates and multimedia, the service hopes to offset Facebook’s growing ubiquity and dominance of users’ time. Coming on the heels of high-profile disappointments such as Buzz and Orkut, and coupled with the recent rollout of a +1 button (designed to counteract omnipresent Facebook Like features), Google hopes to reverse its social media fortunes. As social networking continues to explode and its features and influence sprawl across individual websites, services like Google+ are part of a larger plan by the Internet search leader to regain relevance and interest. By integrating more social network features into its products, Google+ may help the firm hold viewers’ attention longer, provide more discoverable goodies of relevance and increasingly keep you preoccupied by its sphere of influence.

Available to select users for testing, access to Google+ is currently by invitation only.