Google Goes Social With Google+

Google has revealed details of its new social networking service, Google+, which is now in limited use by invitation only. The service aims to integrate seamlessly with Google’s other products like maps and images, while enriching the experience of online interaction.

According to Google’s official blog, online sharing is “awkward,” and Google+ is an attempt to correct that. By adding selective features such as +Circles for organizing friends into niche groups (work, music buddies, running partners, etc.) and +Sparks for easy discovery and sharing of web content that matches user interests, Google+ is addressing what it deems Facebook’s problem of being too “rigid.”

Other features in Google+ include +Hangouts, which hopes to promote group video chat and encourage easy, low-pressure interaction with friend circles. Mobile apps, starting with Android, are also in development.

If successful, the service could be serious competition for social king Facebook. The appearance and operation (see screen shots here) are similar enough that users should have little trouble making the transition. The Google navigation bar has been redesigned and will now appear black instead of the usual gray. Once the service is ready, Google+ icons with options for profile access, notifications, and content sharing will appear in this area.

At present membership is invitation-only, but interested parties can request an account here. There is also a Twitter feed to keep everyone informed about developments with the service. The limited invite rollout is not unlike Google’s introduction of Gmail a few years back, which successfully drove demand for addresses sky high.

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