updated 02:10 pm EDT, Tue June 28, 2011
Google Plus social service goes live
Google outlined its true social networking efforts Tuesday by unveiling Google+. The service is built around the concept a persistent toolbar that allows sharing from any Google site as well as Circles. A drag-and-drop interface lets users organize contacts into sharing groups where a single share can go out to many people at once.
The bar is expected to eventually leave Google pages either through browser extensions as well as websites. Mobile versions may also come, Google says. To help spur sharing, members can create or follow Sparks, or threads of common interests. Google's earlier +1 button will come back into play with Google+ now hosting all +1 votes in a given profile.
Video chat is a core component and revolves around Hangouts. The approach lets friends notify each other they're willing to chat from nearly any area and willl automatically notify others in a Circle if a conversation starts up between Circle members. Chats are much more ambitions than with Google's usual services and can handle as many as 10 people with media sharing and an intelligent focus that switches the attention to whoever's speaking.
Mobile devices are already a strong focus. Only Android users for now get an Instant Upload feature that can automatically share photos and videos to a given Circle, but both Android, iPhone, and text messaging users will have group messaging for Circles through a platform known as Huddle.
The service is currently in a small trial but is expected to grow in the near future.
For Google, the new service is its most direct attempt to keep Facebook from gaining what it sees as too much control of social networking and sharing on the web. Google has lashed out at Facebook for its refusal to expose most data to searches on the web and has even pulled some integration from Android. Facebook in turn has made claims about guarding privacy and was even caught trying to smear Google by proxy.