Google today announces the launch of Google+, their effort into the Social Networking arena -- think Facebook with Google searching;  In fact the preview screens look a lot like Facebook.  (Try not to confuse Google+ with Google +1, a button to help you share your favourite pages with other).

As with all Google launches it is invitation only to the select few with invites coming later.  Good marketing hype.

It has some interesting features and tight integration with other Google services.  One interesting point that jumped out was the fact that someone can sign up to receive your updates without you agreeing. The Google approach is similar to Twitter, whereas Facebook needs a two way acceptance.

There is the integration with the massive Google search beast so you can easily search while in Google+ and receive text and video links.

Google+ needs the user to have a Google Profile and interestingly anyone who has Google Domains (i.e. their own domain hosted by Google) is precluded as Profiles are yet to be supported.  'Fail' in my book.

Google claim they are in this for the long haul and say it will take some years to embed into your social life.  That remains to be seen!  Remember other Google social networking flops -- Google Buzz which received massive criticism for its privacy policy, or Orkut (have you even heard of this?!).  Then there was Google Wave, the new email that fell apart before it was ever launched.

It will remain to be seen if Google can pull this one off.  It's clear they need something else to pull in the advertising, especially if you consider that in May 2011 180 million people visited Google sites, against 157 million on Facebook. However,  Facebook users looked at 103 billion pages and spent an average of 375 minutes on the site, while Google users viewed 46.3 billion pages and spent 231 minutes.

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