Google Faces Up to Facebook with ‘Plus’ Social Sharing Site

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Google just threw down the digital gauntlet, right in front of Facebook’s feet, with the announcement of a new social sharing site called Google+.

The site is invite-only at the moment (cue hundreds of “Can anyone spare me a Plus invite?” requests on Twitter), so for those who can’t get inside, the basic premise is this: Plus lets you create groups of people called “Circles”, and you can share stuff among those groups in a more focused way than you might using Facebook.

So while you might share the news that you’ve got engaged with everyone in all your Circles, the other news – about how your engagement party ended up with three hospitalized casualties, your car painted bright pink, and your purchase of 20 square miles of prime Los Angeles real estate for just $20 and a can of Coke – might just be shared with your BFFs. Or maybe the subset of your BFFs who were invited to the party.

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There are also “Hangouts”, in which Google appears to have invented the chatroom. You can create one, or join one created by a friend, at any time. Participants are connected via video chat and can, you know, hang out. Another feature, Huddle, is much the same but for text chat between groups of people. Sorry, Circles.

There’s also instant photo sharing and a feature called Sparks, which offers something new: auto-generated content feeds based on your chosen topics. It’s like blogging never happened. You tell sparks what you’re interested in, and it scoots around the web finding stuff it thinks you’ll find interesting.

Google’s created a Google Maps-style demo you can play with to get to know Plus a little better.

So will Plus out-Facebook Facebook? Will people care enough to sign up, assign buddies to Circles, join Hangouts, and browse Sparks? Or will they all be too busy on Facebook to notice?

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