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How Google+ plans to take on Facebook

Last updated on: June 30, 2011 18:41 IST

How Google+ plans to take on Facebook

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Jayesh Shinde, ThinkDigit.com

Finally, the news we've all been waiting for close to a year now. Google last night unveiled the Google+ project, its counter-weight to try and balance the growing power of Facebook as a social network on the Web.

Google+ allows users to share photos, videos, and more with their friends -- as it turns out, Circles -- a social layer added on Google search few months ago -- is now part of Google+. So let's see what's all the fuss about.

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Image: Google Plus
Photographs: Google Plus
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Rumours of Google working on its own social network first emerged as early as June 2010, when the tech media poured over the Facebook killer that Google was apparently building -- Google Me. It no longer goes by that name, Google's social networking layer over its primary search offering as of launch day is now known as Google+.

So what is Google+? Interesting question. And part of the answer leads us to believe it's much better than Google Buzz, the company's past major attempt at anything social.

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Google+ isn't a social networking product, per se -- it isn't like Google Wave, an isolated product. On the contrary, Google+ is an extension of Google search itself, an added layer of social network to enrich your overall Google experience online.

The Google+ project is an assimilation of the following broad categories: +Circles, +Spark, +Hangout, +Mobile (further to be broken down into +Location, +Huddle, and +Instant uploads).

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+Circles

Powered by HTML5, +Circles lets you drag and drop your friends into different social circles -- siblings and parents in a circle called "Family", office colleagues in a circle called "Work", best buddies in a circle called "Best friends", and so on.

Unlike Facebook, which primarily focuses on sharing information with all your friends, Circles in Google+ is more about sharing within well-defined groups for greater control over your audience and the long-term impact of what you share with them.

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+Sparks

An interesting approach by Google to re-imagine how people encounter and share quality content on the Web, Sparks is the core sharing engine within the Google+ project. It delivers quality content based on your interests -- movies, cricket, Wayne Rooney, etc. -- through various parameters and sources -- Google search, Google +1 button recommendations, and more.

Here again Google+ diverges from Facebook -- where videos and photos are often shared in a chain -- by allowing every user to encounter content on their interest areas and share it with their social circles.

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+Hangouts

This is a combination of instant messaging and video conferencing features built right into Google+ through Hangouts.

Although Google argues it's different from existing IM and video chats, I don't really see any difference -- apart from a cool interface. Do you?

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+Mobile

Probably the most important of the Google+ project, Mobile is where Google+ will explode very soon. And very smartly, Google+'s Mobile component focuses on three broad aspects, more than anything -- GPS (for location-based activities and labelled +Location), Camera (for uploading and sharing photos from your camera via +Instant uploads), and Chatting (ping friends and start texting with group messages through +Huddle).

There's an Android app for Google+ currently out on the Android Market that you can download and get started with. Google said an iOS app is also on its way soon.

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As is evident from the videos, Google+ is part of a re-looked Google homepage, with a brand new menu bar at the top which has a +You button to launch Google+. More on that soon...

However, all of you who can't wait to get started with Google+, Google is keeping it an "invitation only" project for now -- remember Gmail and its deployment back in 2004?

So yes, unless you have an invite, you'll have to wait to start using Google+. We expect a thread to go up soon in the forums where people will start trading invitations for Google+.

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