Google goes social – say hi to Google+

28 Jun 2011

As originally reported on, Google plans to put social graphs across its entire web product family and tonight the Google+ real-life sharing project began in earnest.

Last week, reported how Google ad boss John Herlihy said Google wanted to embed social in everything it did and this morning we reported how Eric Schmidt, Google’s chairman, wanted to see the dawn of apps that captured human memory, emotions and experiences.

Google’s answer to social networking is to break away from the rigidness of its set of online tools to allow users to capture the “subtlety and substance of real-world interactions.”

“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,” Vic Gundotra, senior vice-president, engineering at Google, said in the company’s official blog.

Field trial invitations have been sent out to a select few in the same fashion that Gmail rolled out, with up to 15 invitations allocated per person.

Google+ includes the following features:

+Circles: Share the right things with the right people

“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,” Gundotra said.

+Sparks: Get videos and articles about stuff you’re into sent directly to you, so when you’re free, there’s always something to be watched, read or shared

“The web, of course, 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 – not without lots of work, and lots of noise. So, we built an online sharing engine called Sparks.

“Thanks to Google’s web expertise, 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,” Gundotra said.

+Hangouts: Stop by and say hello, face-to-face-to-face

This is probably the most intriguing of the new offerings, in my opinion. It seems to be a gathering place that makes use of online video and other tools. In an interesting sense, it seems to be Google’s answer to Skype’s multi-user conference calls and pre-empts any moves Facebook might make in terms of video.

“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.”

+Mobile: Share what’s around, right now, without any hassle

“These days, a phone is the perfect sharing accessory: it’s always with you, it’s always online, and it’s how we stay close with our closest friends. We didn’t want ‘just’ a mobile experience, however, so with Google+ we focused on things (like GPS, cameras and messaging) to make your pocket computer even more personal,” Gundotra continued.

“In life, the places we visit shape conversations in lots of meaningful ways. If we call John from the airport, he’ll likely ask about our trip. Or if Jane texts from a nearby restaurant, we might join her for dessert. With Google+ you can add your location to every post. (Or not. It’s always up to you.)

“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,” Google said.

The company also revealed an interesting new service called Huddle, a new group messaging service that lets everyone in your ‘Circle’ know what’s going on without the need for phone calls and text messages.

Google has pulled a lot out of the hat in this instance. The real trick will be to see how comprehensive the whole package of social tools is in terms of how it gels, how intuitive it is to use and how it blends across the Google experience and sites like YouTube, Gmail and other Google web properties.

Stay tuned in coming days for the review of the Google+ experience.


John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years