- Google started rolling out to a limited number of users on Tuesday in what the company is calling a field trial
- Users can separate friends into separate “circles”
- Central web page displays an ever-updating stream of comments, photos and links being shared by friends
Google yesterday launched its own social network in an attempt to challenge Facebook with a service that ties together all its existing sites including Gmail.
Google is structured in a remarkably similar way to Facebook, with profile pictures and news feeds forming a central core. However, a user”s friends or contacts are grouped into specific circles of their choosing – as opposed to the common pool of friends typical on Facebook.
Friends are placed within ’Circles’, letting users create sub-groups depending on interests or relationships. Google claims this makes it easier to share content with the friends who would appreciate the content the most.
Google Contacts will automatically be imported into Google , while Search Engine Land reports that Google is also looking at ways to integrate Yahoo and Microsoft (but not Facebook) email addresses.
Google also lets users share content with those who don’t have a Google account by allowing external email addresses to be part of their Circles.
Content relevant to a user will also be served into their stream through what Google is calling ’Sparks’. Users select topics of interest, such as football, film or cycling, which are then be populated within their feed and can be shared.
One of Google ’s major elements is a group video chat function, called Hangouts, where up to ten people can take part in a conversation. Mobile is also central to the platform, with Android phone owners able to upload photos to Google automatically. A group chat option for mobile is also available.
This isn’t the first time Google has tried to gain a foothold in social media, previously rolling out Google Buzz, Google Wave and Orkut to mixed responses.
It’s also as yet unclear how paid advertising will fit into the platform, but agencies have welcomed Google ’s introduction.
Andrew Girdwood, director of media innovations at Bigmouthmedia, said, “This is about Google trying to compete with Facebook, and it’s doing it in an interesting way. It’s trying to compete by understanding social better. Facebook started off inside a social circle, the college campus, and expanded outside that. Google’s starting off with the big picture and giving us the ability to create our own circles. That’s attractive.”
Google chief executive Larry Page has made social networking a top priority at the world”s number one Internet search engine, whose position as the main gateway to online information could be at risk as people spend more time on sites such as Facebook and Twitter.