Google is hoping to fight back against Facebook - and its own history of failed attempts to build social network services - as it launches Google+, a suite of social services that aim to make sharing easier.
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwnJ5Bl4kLI]YouTube - ‪The Google+ project: A quick look‬‏[/ame]
Google+ - which the search giant says has been in development for over a year - involves a range of connected services that let people share things online with different groups of people.
It includes Google Circles, which lets you group together your friends and contacts into separate 'circles', and share and discuss things only with them; Google Hangouts, a group video chat experience that aims to make video calling more casual and fun; and Google Sparks, which brings you shared content from around the web that's relevant to your interests.
Google appeared to be directly taking on Facebook in the blogpost that announced Google+, discussing at length where they think social networking online currently goes wrong.
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeMZP-oyOII]YouTube - ‪The Google+ project: Circles‬‏[/ame]
The post, by Vic Gundotra, senior vice president of engineering at Google, said: '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. In this basic, human way, online sharing is awkward. Even broken. And we aim to fix it.'
Google have long been rumoured to be working on a new social effort to take on Facebook - including suggestions the project was called Google Me, and some early leaked details of Circles, which was briefly rumoured to be launching at SXSW in March.
In a prepared statement, Facebook said only that 'we're in the early days of making the web more social, and there are opportunities for innovation everywhere.'
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tku1vJeuzH4]YouTube - ‪The Google+ project: Hangouts‬‏[/ame]
Google+ is widely seen as Google's last chance to 'get social right', following the failure of previously much-hyped attempts at bringing a Google approach to online social experiences, such as Google Wave and Google Buzz.
Buzz, which launched in 2010, attracted a widespread privacy backlash and forced Google into an embarrassing climbdown in which they said they were 'very, very sorry' for the way the service had launched.
And Wave, Google's attempt to reinvent email for the social networking age, was launched in 2009 on a huge swell of hype - but was then roundly panned for being too confusing, attracted few users, and was finally shut down in August 2010.
Google+ is not currently available to the public - it's currently in a limited, invite-only beta test phase.