Google+ isn't just a Google product. Instead, it's a movement to make social all things Google, according to interviews its executives gave to FastCompany.
Ever paranoid about missing the big tech paradigm shift (i.e. becoming like Yahoo! or AOL), Google saw the writing on the wall about the power of social networking last year. Senior Google executive Urs Holzle wrote a memo declaring that Google needed a decisive and substantial response, including a significant deployment of personnel -- right away.
Top leadership soon agreed and Google executive Vic Gundotra was tapped to lead the social project, which began last year, according to FastCompany.
Bradley Horowitz, a Google executive who worked on the project, told FastCompany that Google Plus just seeks to provide Google's billions of users with a consistent and coherent experience of how they represent themselves and their relationships.
It doesn't seek to be a stand-alone social networking service that directly competes with Facebook (like Orkut). Instead, it's about making everything Google social.
Google is likely motivated by the desire to capture and maintain market share; if the Internet turns social, Google needs social networking functions if it wants to remain relevant.
More importantly in the near term, Google likely wants user data. Google has billions of users, as Holzle said, but compared to Facebook, it doesn't know too much about them. If Google Plus succeeds, Google can potentially catch up to a degree.
The data will likely be used to optimize user experience. Moreover, it'll allow Google to compete with Facebook to some degree on the depths of targeting for advertisements.