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Wednesday, 29 June 2011 13:32

Google goes after Facebook with Google+


Google has unveiled its ambitious play for the social networking market, Google+ with dominant player Facebook firmly in its sights; and according to one Google watcher the project is key to Google's future.

Google+ was announced in a blog posting by Vic Gundotra, senior vice president, engineering, along with a handful of videos offering tantalising glimpses of Google+ features and functionality.

Other than that, there were few specifics revealed. Google+ is available now as an Android app and via the mobile web, and soon via the App Store. However, during the start-up phase, participation will be by invitation only.

In his blog, Gundotra make clear, without naming names, that Google has Facebook in its sights. "Among the most basic of human needs is the need to connect with others'¦[And] 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," he says.

"In this basic, human way, online sharing is awkward. Even broken. And we aim to fix it. We'd like to bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software. We want to make Google better by including you, your relationships and your interests. And so begins the Google+ project."

More specifically, he claims that one feature of Google+, +Circles, goes beyond the limitations of Facebook. "Not all relationships are created equal. So in life we share one thing with college buddies, another with parents and almost nothing with our boss. The problem is that today's online services turn friendship into fast food - wrapping everyone in 'friend' paper - and sharing really suffers'¦

"Every online conversation (with over 100 'friends') is a public performance, so we often share less because of stage fright'¦We all define 'friend' and 'family' Differently'¦but we lose this nuance online. In light of these shortcomings we asked ourselves, 'What do people actually do?' And we didn't have to search far for the answer. People in fact share selectively all the time -with their circles'¦So we did the only thing that made sense: we brought Circles to software."


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He has also moved to quell the inevitable concerns about privacy, "We realise, however, that Google+ is a different kind of project, requiring a different kind of focus -on you. That's why we're giving you more ways to stay private or go public; more meaningful choices around your friends and your data; and more ways to let us know how we're doing."

Google+: A bet the company strategy?
Long time Google watcher, Stephen Levy, says Google+ is a much more than just another Google project. In a lengthy article in Wired magazine, Levy - author of the recently published 'In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works And Shapes Our Live' - says: "As I learned in almost year of following the project's development, with multiple interviews with the team and its executives, Google+ is not a typical release. Developed under the code name Emerald Sea, it is the result of a lengthy and urgent effort involving almost all of the company's products. Hundreds of engineers were involved in the effort. It has been a key focus for new CEO Larry Page."

He explains that the name 'Emerald Sea' stemmed from a 19th century painting of that title - reproduced as a mural in the Googleplex - that shows a ship about to be swamped by a towering wave. "The massive wave symbolises the ways Google views the increasingly prominent social aspect of the web - as a possible tsunami poised to engulf it, or a maverick surge that it will ride to glory."

And he quotes Gundotra as saying last August: "We needed a code name that captured the fact that either there was a great opportunity to sail to new horizons and new things, or that we were going to drown by this wave." When asked whether he thought Emerald Sea was a 'bet the company' project, Gundotra told Levy: "I think so. I don't know how you can look at it any other way."


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