Google's social play: The Google+ project
Google have just unveiled their long anticipated, and often denied, answer to Facebook – the Google+ project:
Today, the connections between people increasingly happen online. Yet the subtlety and substance of real-world interactions are lost in the rigidness of our online tools.
In this basic, human way, online sharing is awkward. Even broken. And we aim to fix it.
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:
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. Just make a circle, add your people, and share what’s new – just like any other day:
The web is filled with great content – from timely articles to vibrant photos to funny videos. And great content can lead to great conversations. We noticed, however, that it’s still too hard to find and share the things we care about. So, we built an online sharing engine called Sparks.
Sparks delivers a feed of highly contagious content from across the Internet. 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:
With Google+ we wanted to make on-screen gatherings fun, fluid and serendipitous, so we created Hangouts. 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:
Getting photos off your phone is a huge pain, so most of us don’t even bother. Of course pictures are meant to be shared, not stranded, so we created Instant Upload to help you never leave a photo behind. While you’re snapping pictures, and with your permission, Google+ adds your photos to a private album in the cloud. This way they’re always available across your devices—ready to share as you see fit:
Coordinating with friends and family in real-time is really hard in real life. After all, everyone’s on different schedules, in different places, and plans can change at any moment. Phone calls and text messages can work in a pinch, but they’re not quite right for getting the gang together. So Google+ includes Huddle, a group messaging experience that lets everyone inside the circle know what’s going on, right this second:
Starting today Google+ is available on Android Market and the mobile web, and it’s coming soon to the iPhone App Store:
That’s the Google+ project so far: Circles, Sparks, Hangouts and mobile. We’re beginning in Field Trial, so you may find some rough edges, and the project is by invitation only.
It’s worth going through Google’s demo of the project and Wired have an in-depth story on the project’s development:
The parts announced today represent only a portion of Google’s plans. In an approach the company refers to as “rolling thunder,” Google has been quietly been pushing out pieces of its ambitious social strategy — there are well over 100 launches on its calendar. When some launches were greeted by yawns, the Emerald Sea team leaders weren’t ruffled at all — lack of drama is part of the plan. Google has consciously refrained from contextualizing those products into its overall strategy.
Google are clearly betting the farm on this one – after month’s of denying any such product was in development, they’ve made a massive global splash about the launch of Google+. They’re out to not only eat Facebook’s lunch, but Skype’s, Twitter’s and Foursquare’s too. It’s not clear how it’s all going to work in practice, what features are yet to be released, or how good it’s going to be, but there’s no going back from this.
Whether users will go to the effort of creating ‘circles’, the product’s one unique feature, and whether Google can persuade Twitter to allow early adopters to import their social graph from their Twitter accounts in order to give the product critical mass are the two main early signs we’re watching out for. If I had to, I’d bet that Google’s got a winner on its hands here.
Google are also treating using privacy concerns extremely seriously, after the debacle of their ongoing lawsuit over the launch of Google Buzz. Privacy and making data available to advertisers are two sides of the same coin, and it remains to be seen what Google will be offering to brands, but you can be sure if it’s linked to search data then it’s going to be very valuable indeed.
Update: The Guardian’s Charles Arthur reviews Google+ and the FT’s Tim Bradshaw with a video review: