Google has finally unveiled its social networking challenge to Facebook. However, while Google+ (pronounced Google plus, if you hadn't guessed) shares some of the same features as Facebook in terms of linking users, it will focus on sharing information, news and links through customised "circles of friends".
These circles are categorised as Hangouts (for friends to video-chat), Huddles ( for group messaging) and Sparks (to share links.)
Google's announcement said the product would have a comprehensive set of features for mobile use. "These days, a phone is the perfect sharing accessory," it said, adding: "We didn't want 'just' a mobile experience, however, so with Google+ we focused on things (like GPS, cameras, and messaging) to make your pocket computer even more personal."
Google hopes the new product will avoid the negative reaction to its previous, failed social networking efforts, such as Google Buzz and Google Wave.
Bloggers have praised the features of Google+, but some doubt whether Facebook users will ditch their profiles and make the leap.
"From the little that I've seen so far, Google+ is by far the best effort in social [networking] that Google has put out there yet," said TechCrunch's MG Siegler. "But traction will be contingent upon everyone convincing their contacts to regularly use it."
Robin Wilding from The Social Technology Review hailed the new site as Google's "missing link".
"It is going to be a Google world soon, and the first people to leverage their pending fame will reap the benefits," he predicted.