Google Launches Google+ To Duel Facebook

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Google Launches Google+ To Duel Facebook
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Dated: Jun 29, 2011
Google has finally unveiled Google+, the company's top secret social layer that turns all of the search
engine into one giant social network.

Google has finally unveiled Google+, the company's top secret social layer that turns all of the search
engine into one giant social network.

Google+, which begins rolling out a very limited field test on Tuesday, is the culmination of a year-long
project led by Vic Gundotra, Google's senior vice president of social. The project, which has been delayed
several times, constitutes Google's answer to Facebook.

The search giant's new social project will be omnipresent on its products, thanks to a complete redesign of
the navigation bar. The familiar gray strip at the top of every Google page will turn black, and come with
several new options for accessing your Google+ profile, viewing notifications and instantly sharing content.
The notification system is similar to how Facebook handles notifications, complete with a red number that
increases with each additional notice.

At its core, Google+ is a social network. The first thing users are introduced to is the Stream. It's much like
the Facebook News Feed, allowing users to share photos, videos, links or their location with friends.

That's where Google+ begins to diverge from Facebook, though. The focus of this social project is not on
sharing with a mass group of friends, but on targeted sharing with your various social groups. To do this,
Google uses a system called Circles.

Gundotra explained that most social media services (read: Facebook, Twitter) haven't been successful with
friend lists because they've been designed as a "tack-on" product rather than being integrated at every level.
Gundotra also believes that current friend list products are awkward and not rewarding to use.

Google+ Circles is an attempt to address that challenge. The HTML5 system allows users to drag-and-drop
their friends into different social circles for friends, family, classmates, co-workers and other custom
groups. Users can drag groups of friends in and out of these circles.

One of the nice things about the product is its whimsical nature -- a puff of smoke and a -1 animation
appears when you remove a friend, and when you remove a social circle, it rolls away off the screen.

Photos & Group Video Chat

It's clear from the extended demo that Gundotra and his team have thought about every aspect and detail of
Google+ thoroughly. The photo, video and mobile experiences are no exception.

Google has created a section specifically for viewing, managing and editing multimedia. The photo tab
takes a user to all of the photos he or she has shared, as well as the ones he or she is tagged in. It's not just
photo tagging, though: Google+ includes an image editor (complete with Instagram-like photo effects),
privacy options and sharing features.

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The video chat feature might be one of the most interesting aspects of Google+. Gundotra and his team
thought about why group chat hasn't become a mainstream phenomenon. He compared it to knocking on a
neighbor's door at 8 p.m. -- most people don't do it because it isn't a social norm. However, if a group of
friends are sitting on a porch and you just happen to walk by, it's almost rude not to say hi.

That's the concept behind "Hangouts," Google's new group chat feature. Instead of directly asking a friend
to join a group chat, users instead click "start a hangout" and they're instantly in a video chatroom alone. At
the same time, a message goes out to their social circles, letting them know that their friend is "hanging
out." The result, Google has found in internal testing, is that friends quickly join.

One cool feature of Hangouts is that it doesn't place a chat window on the screen for each participant.
Instead, Google changes the chat screen to whoever is currently talking. It quickly switches from video feed
to video feed, moving faster in bigger groups. The maximum members in any video Hangout is 10, though
users can get on a waitlist and wait for someone to leave.

Content Discovery Through Sparks

To spur sharing, Google has added a recommendation engine for finding interesting content. The feature,
Google+ Sparks, is a collection of articles, videos, photos and other content grouped by interest. For
example, the "Movies" spark will have a listing of recent and relevant content for that topic.

The system is algorithmic -- it relies on information from other Google products (e.g. Google Search) as
well as what is being shared via Google+ and through +1 buttons.

The goal, according to Gundotra, is to make it dead-simple for users to explore their interests and share
what they find with their friends. Google+ is attempting to become the one-stop shop not only for sharing
content, but for finding it as well. In some ways, it reminds us of Twitter and its mission to become an
information network, and "instantly connect people everywhere to what's most important to them."


Google will also be launching mobile apps for Google+, starting with Android. The Android app includes
access to the Stream, Circles, Sparks and multimedia.

The addition of these features in a mobile app isn't a surprise. What is a surprise, though, is the app's
auto-upload feature. Any photo or video you take on your phone through Google+ will automatically be
uploaded to your computer, ready to share. These uploads aren't public, but the next time you log onto your
desktop, the photos button in the status bar will have a number, indicating how many new uploads are
available for sharing. It keeps these photos and videos available for sharing for eight hours after upload.

Gundotra says that Google intends to launch apps for Google+ on other platforms in the future.

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