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Rediff.com  » Business » Google takes on Facebook, unveils social networking service

Google takes on Facebook, unveils social networking service

June 29, 2011 10:07 IST

GoogleTaking on Facebook, Internet search giant Google on Wednesday unveiled its version of a social networking service called 'Google Plus' as part of efforts to garner a share in the lucrative social networking space that has so far been dominated by the Mark Zuckerberg-led popular site.

Promising to bring 'real-world interactions' and 'real-life sharing' online, 'Google Plus' lets users post photos, messages, comments and other content from selected groups of friends.

"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," Google's senior vice president for engineering Vic Gundotra said in a blog post.

It said its new service aims to 'fix' the 'broken' and 'awkward' way people interact online.

"Through the Google Plus project, we'd like to bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software," Gundotra said.

Google Plus will be available as an application in the store on Android operating system-based mobile phones.

The service has been started as a field trial that may have some 'rough edges' and the project is by invitation only, which is expected to be made available more broadly in the future.

The service has features like 'Circles', 'Sparks', 'Hangouts' and 'Mobile'.

Through Circles, Google targets Facebook's features in which a user's information is shared by default with a large number of his or her friends, including their work colleagues and acquaintances, rather than only their close personal friends.

"The problem is that today's online services turn friendship into fast food -- wrapping everyone in 'friend' paper -- and sharing really suffers," Gundotra said.

Calling this 'sloppy, scary and insensitive', Google said people want to connect with only certain people at certain times, while 'online, we hear from everyone all the time.'

Google's new social network promises to let users 'share just the right things with just the right people.'

Further, through its 'Instant Upload' feature, Google 'with your permission' will add photos to a private album in the cloud while the user is taking pictures.

Users can also create groups of contacts with which they share information, such as 'your friends from Saturday night,' 'your parents,' and 'your boss in a circle by himself-just like in real life'.

In contrast to Facebook, Google's new service will also let users video chat with numerous friends simultaneously.

Another feature called 'Sparks' suggests articles to read and videos to watch based on the users' interests.

Its 'Huddle' feature lets users send text messages to several different people at once, known as group texting.

Facebook has more than 600 million users worldwide and poses tough competition to Google.

More and more users are spending their time on Facebook than on Google and Facebook has successfully lured advertisers, a trend that Google sees as a potential threat.

In May, 180 million people visited Google sites, including YouTube, according to research firm ComScore.

While More than 157 million visited Facebook, those Facebook users spent an average of 375 minutes on the site as compared to 231 minutes on Google.

Yoshita Singh in Boston
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