Will this Google+ difference turn the tide? Not everyone agrees

There are enthusiasts for the the new Google service , as the Drum has reported, but the doubters ask if Google has left it too late

Google vice president Bradley Horowitz, leading the company's social efforts, said: "In real life, we have walls and windows, and I can speak to you knowing who's in the room, but in the online world, you get to a 'Share' box and you share with the whole world."

Google hopes this difference will be enough to persuade people to give it a whirl. Not that you can simply join up. Google is being very choosy about its customers.

The service will initially be available only to a select group of Google users who will soon be able to invite others.

In the past Google has had its flops in flops in social networking, like Buzz. The hope is that Google+ will change all that. But could Google+ already be too late?

In May, 180 million people visited Google sites, including YouTube, versus 157.2 million on Facebook. But Facebook users spent much longer on the site, according to comScore - an average of 375 minutes compared with 231 minutes on Google.

Google users also viewed far fewer pages: 46.3 billion compared to 103 billion on Facebook.

Advertisers "pay close attention to those numbers," says the New York Times, taking an in-depth look at the new Google service. People were said to be increasingly turning to Facebook and other social sites like Twitter to ask questions they used to ask Google, "like a recommendation for a restaurant or doctor, because they want more personalised answers."

Google has been criticised for failing to understand the importance of social information on the Web while Facebook and Twitter have moved ahead.

The new website, plus.google.com, is clearly designed to answer that. It is Google's most fully formed social networking tool yet, says the Times.

The Google chiefs say they aim to mimic people's relationships in real life and "eliminate the social awkwardness that things like friend requests and oversharing can generate on other sites". Did anyone say Facebook?

Google+ users will start by selecting people they know from their Gmail contacts. They can drag and drop friends' names into different groups, or circles, and attach labels, like "sisters" or "book club."

Users can see articles and videos from across the Web on certain topics, like recipes or Alzheimer's disease, and share them with groups of friends.

Unlike Facebook, people do not have to agree to be friends with one another. They can receive someone's updates without sharing their own. Their bosses don't have to see pictures from Saturday night, for instance.

Unique to the new Google+ is high-definition group video chat, Hangouts. Other members of a group can join the chat as it is happening.

The Google mission has its doubters, however. Debra Aho Williamson, principal analyst with research firm eMarketer, put it this way: "People have their social circles on Facebook. Asking them to create another social circle is challenging.

"Going to Google to be social is like going to Starbucks for the muffins. Or, for that matter, going to Facebook for search."

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