Google launched its latest attempt at a social network this week, Google +, which could rival Facebook by going after exclusivity.
The new service is currently in a field trial testing period with a select group of people. Google admitted it still had a few rough edges and didn't give a definitive time period for when it will be ready for widespread usage. Still, the Mountain View tech giant seems excited and confident this foray into social networking and against Facebook won't fall flat.
Among the most basic of human needs is the need to connect with others. With a smile, a laugh, a whisper or a cheer, we connect with others every single day, Vic Gundotra, senior vice president of Engineering at Google, said in a blog post. 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.
The social networking service from Google will focus on a feature called Circles, which lets users share and communicate strictly with a specific group of friends or family. Taking a jab at Facebook and other social networking services, Google said today's networks create self-censorship because we have to share with everyone.
In the blog post, Gundotra likened these social networks to turning friendship into fast food. As a result, through Cirlces people can create exclusive groups which will see updates, photos, etc.
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.
There is also Hangouts, which allows people to conduct video chat with multiple people at once. Once again taking shots at the competition, Google said today's video chat services are annoying and awkward. This service allows people to hang out when they are free.
There are other services on Google+ such as sparks, which is similar to Facebook's like feature. If click +You for a particular topic, you will get a feed of all of the content across the web related to it.
Google is also launching Google+ for mobile with smartphone specific features like instant upload and location. There's also huddle, which allows users to have a private messaging chat.
Whether or not Google will succeed with Google+ clearly remains to be seen. In the past, Google launched social networks like Buzz and Orkut, both of which have been failures for the most part. Google's rival, Facebook, has 600 million users and is a huge threat to Google's large online-advertising success, which was more than five billion last year.
The two companies have sparred recently when it was revealed Facebook hired a public relations firm to question Google's privacy tactics. The firm, Burson-Marsteller attempted to plant and pitch anti-Google stories in the media at the request of Facebook. Google did not respond with a comment, but it's now clearly going after Facebook's territory once again.
Follow Gabriel Perna on Twitter at @GabrielSPerna