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Facebook's Newest Challenger: Google Plus

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Facebook's Newest Challenger: Google Plus

Technology

Facebook's Newest Challenger: Google Plus

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Google and Facebook are wrestling for pieces of each other's business. Facebook put a move on Google's Gmail by launching its own email service. And Google tried to loosen Facebook's grip on social networking with Google Buzz. That didn't go well.

Now, NPR's Martin Kaste reports Google is trying something else.

MARTIN KASTE: The new social network is called Google Plus, and you aren't allowed to join it - at least not yet.

Mr. BRADLEY HOROWITZ (Vice President of Product Management, Google Inc.): It's small but growing.

KASTE: VP Bradley Horowitz says Google Plus is still in field testing, so invitations have been sent only to a limited number of early adopters and journalists. It's similar to the rollout strategy for Gmail and Google Voice. And if the company is lucky, the perceived scarcity will build up demand, but for what exactly?

Mr. HOROWITZ: We created a system that is based on the concept of circles so that I can take my college friends and drag them into a circle called college buddies, and I can take my work colleagues and drag them into a circle called work friends and share selectively the parts of myself with each of those circles that I choose to.

KASTE: In other words, Google Plus is trying to solve the age-old problem of what to do when you're friended by your mom. In a promotional video, Google suggests that organizing your online life into circles may actually help you to loosen up.

(Soundbite of promotional video)

Unidentified Woman: To bust out those dance moves (unintelligible) you definitely need to know.

KASTE: Facebook allows users to do something similar with an option called groups. But some users complain the feature is clumsy to manage.

Google Plus, on the other hand, puts circles up front. And whenever you upload a photo or a bit of news, Google checks who you intend to see it.

Richard Esguerra of the Electronic Frontier Foundation says the company seems to be trying to recover from privacy controversies involving its earlier social networking efforts like the ill-fated Google Buzz.

Mr. RICHARD ESGUERRA (Senior Activist, Electronic Frontier Foundation) They're trying to fix a lot of different things, not about their own approach to social networking and privacy, but also, I think, about the general social networking model. And for now, I think, you know, we're seeing a good start.

KASTE: Google is also promising to let you move your information out of Google Plus, if you decide to, and Google says it will let you delete your information from its servers, really delete it, a promise Facebook has never made.

Martin Kaste, NPR News, Seattle.

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