Google Announces Google+: Its Most Ambitious Social Networking Project Yet

It’s easy to feel a bit cynical when Google announces a new social networking project and my first thoughts when I heard about Google+ were probably similar to those of many others: “Haven’t we seen this (fail) before?” There more I look into Google+, though, the more I wonder if the company isn’t finally on the right track.

So what is Google+ anyway? It’s not just a basic Facebook clone but  a new Google-powered social network that focuses on sharing content with the right people. To do so, you can organize your friends into groups (or +Circles as Google calls it). By doing this, you can then choose who you want to share content with and keep this information as private and public as you would like it to be.

For the time being, Google is calling this project a “field test” and not a beta. It’s by invitation only. You can get on the invitation list here.

Circles and Sparks: The Friends and Content You Care About

While +Circles is definitely the core feature of the service, Google wisely went beyond this and added plenty of other features to the service. +Sparks, for example, lets you discover new content on the Web based on your interests and then share those stories and sites with your friends on Google+.

Video and Mobile

A few other tools that Google has also included in its new social network show how ambitious this project really is. The company, for example, included a group video chat feature called Hangouts, where you can chat with up to 10 of your friends.

On the Mobile side, Google is focusing on instant photo uploads, location sharing and a group texting service called +Huddle (the Android app is out now and an iPhone app is coming soon).

Google+ is clearly Google’s most ambitious project in the social space yet. I’m still waiting for my invitation to give it a try myself, though, and as with so many other previous Google projects (I’m looking at you, Buzz), the details of how exactly it works and how easy to use it is could make or brake Google+ as well.

We’ll have a lot more about Google+ in the next few days. Until then, take the interactive tour here to learn more about the service and also take a look at Wired’s in-depth story about the people and philosophy behind the project.