What you need to know about Google+ (a five-minute briefing)

With Circles, you can share updates, photos, and other content with a small group of Google+ pals. Remind you of anything?

Google made a big splash Tuesday with its unveiling of Google+, a new (and long-rumored) social network intended to help small groups of friends share and congregate online. Sounds a little like Facebook, right? That’s surely the idea.

Google+ isn’t quite ready for prime time yet; for now, it’s in a limited, invitation-only “field trial.” That said, Google posted an elaborate, interactive demo of the new service here, along with a brief highlight reel (which I’ve embedded after the jump).

How will Google+ work? Well, there are five main components of the still-percolating network, including…

  • Circles: A small group of friends that you create based on … say, your common interests, your familial relationships, your share past, you name it. For example, you could have a Google+ Circle of co-workers, your brothers and sisters, your old college buddies, or your book club. Once you’ve set up a Circle, you can quickly connect and share updates, photos, and other content with just a few clicks.
  • Huddle: A group messaging “experience” for mobile chatting with an entire group of Google+ pals at once.
  • Hangouts: A virtual, video chat-powered place where available Google+ users with free time on their hands can join for a little “unscheduled” time.
  • Instant upload: A nifty-sounding feature that automatically uploads photos and videos from your Google+-enabled phone (a Google+ app for Android is already available, while an iPhone version is on the way) to a private folder in your Google account; from there, you can quickly share video clips and snapshots with whomever you wish.
  • Sparks: A feed of “highly contagious” content based on Google search results, intended to—you guessed it—spark online conversation with your various Circles of pals.

So, that’s the five-minute version of Google+, and here’s the question everyone’s asking about it: Will Google+ be a Facebook-killer? Or is it destined to be another Google Buzz, Google’s weak stab at social networking from last year?

What you need to know about Google+ (a five-minute briefing)

Google+'s "Huddle" feature lets you chat with a small cluster of friends all at once.

I haven’t tried Google+ myself yet (where’s my invite, Larry Page?), but many of the features in Google+ already sound awfully familiar.

Google+ Circles, for examples, appears to work more or less the same as Facebook Groups, which lets you set up small groups of Facebook friends with whom you can share updates, snapshots and videos, and Facebook’s revamped messaging system also lets you chat with small groups of pals all at once.

here’s the thing: While it has a lot of catching up to do before it can seriously challenge the 750-million-member strong Facebook as a social network, Google seems determined to keep trying—and goodness knows, it certainly has the resources to keep trying.

Based on the (only mildly interesting) features we’ve seen today, though, I’m not sure Google+ is the silver bullet that Google’s been hoping for.

That’s just my take, though; what about you? Will Google+ give Facebook a run for its money?