Google Extends its Tentacles further into your Online Existence with Google+


We all know and use Google, probably every day (well, the readers of this blog anyway). Sure its search product is the defacto standard, but over time we have started integrating more and more of their service in our online lives. Think about it – Google Talk, Buzz, Gmail. Some of their “projects” are more successful than others – for example, Gmail is extremely popular, whereas services like Google Lattitude seems downright creepy to me. They have also had some failures – Google Wave being one of them, despite being a very cool idea. Buzz is in danger of also falling into irrelevance.
But now Google is gunning for the other big place where you have an online presence – Facebook. Dont think they have not tried before – they still have Orkut, which is popular in certain countries. But this time they are baking the social features right into its core business of search, and also improving and integrating more of its existing services. It is called the Google+ project, and the initial videos seem to be very impressive out of a social viewpoint.
Some of the key features of Google+ include:
Google Circles:

This the one place where they can differentiate themselves – Google+ allow you to create groups of friends, called Circles. Its pretty easy to do with a drag and drop interface. You simply create the circles you want – for example, “Epic Bros” (seriously Google?), Family, Work Friends etc. Using these groups you only share what you want with whom you want. While Facebook does have some elements of this, they do not allow the same simple way of setting it up. Seriously – how many of use Facebook Groups? Who wants to take a bet Facebook shows off its new “Spheres” feature in the next few weeks?
Google Sparks:

I like this. You enter things you are interested in, and Google goes out and finds things that it thinks you will be interested in. Of course this will integrate with your friends as well, bringing together friends and their interests. As the video puts it – it allows you to “Geek Out” about certain things with friends. For example – if you are fan of a certain car brand, this will theoretically put you in touch with people (and your friends) who are also nuts about a certain car brand. It is almost like Zite’s recommendations, with some of your friends also enjoying it. It basically takes Facebook’s fan pages and interests, and makes it a lot more social.
Google Hangouts:

This is one I am not to sure of, even though it makes a great product demo. Yes it is a great enhancement of Google Talk – but Google insists this is for people who are just “hanging out” on their computer. So when you are online your friends are informed that you are “hanging out”. It enables you to have  video chats with groups of friends at once – and tells them that you are not busy. Maybe I am not extroverted enough – but I am sure it might be a hit with people who chat all day on Facebook.
Google Huddle:

The idea here is to integrate those Circles you created with a quick chat service. The product demo runs on a Android phone, but I assume they will address other platforms as well. Looks like a great idea with a lot of potential, but the technicalities are scarce. The beauty of tools like BBM and iMessage is that they integrate well into the operating system of the phone – so it will probably be built into Android, but needs to run as an app on other smartphones. But if they integrate it with Google Talk it will be great.
All in all it looks like Google+ will be a great addition to all the Google tools you use already. But its almost fragmented nature versus the Facebook “your social life in one site” idea might count against it, but only time will tell.
How about you – do you see yourself using tools like Google Circles?