Great empires – from the Roman Empire to the British Empire - rise and fall. These empires lasted hundreds of years – but the lives of social networking empires - like Friendster and MySpace - have proven to be a lot shorter.
Could Facebook, at the ripe old age of 7, be overtaken by a new competitor?
Tech giant Google has unleashed its own social platform, Google+.
A Google spokeswoman told the Daily News Google began the Google+ project "to see what a Google approach to sharing would look like, and to see if we could come up with a better way of connecting with the different people in our lives."
But don’t cry for Facebook yet. The new Google network isn’t exactly revolutionary, and offers many features already available on Facebook.
For example, Google + allows users to divide their friends into "Circles” so they can share different content with different people. This is similar to the "Lists" service offered by Facebook, which allows users to show and hide different content from different sets of friends.
Google+ users post updates, links, and multimedia the same way they do on Facebook. When a Google+ user posts an update, they have the option of only sharing that update with one of their Circles. Facebook allows users to excluse certain groups of people from viewing individual status messages, as well.
Goolgle+ users can upload photos directly from the Android app to Google+ with the “Instant Upload” feature, which sends every photo and video a user takes on their phone "automatically to a secure album in the cloud," according to the Google spokeswoman. Facebook offers a mobile app that allows users to snap and post camera phone pictures and videos, as well – tho Facebook’s app also works on iPhones and Blackberries.
The Google+ "Stream" looks eerily similar to Facebook’s "News Feed," which displays content posted by users’ friends.
The Google+ “Profile” also looks a lot like the “Profile” page on Facebook. Unlike Facebook, however, Google+ makes it easy for users to download their own Profile information.
Facebook users are familiar with the “Like” and “Recommend” widgets now almost ubiquitous on websites – especially news sites – across the Web. Google+ has launched a similar button, the “+1" button.
Google+ does include some features that are different that those offered on Facebook.
Google’s new social platform offers two tools for group chatting. The “Huddle” tool facilitates group chats as a form of group text-messaging, and the “Hangout” feature allows users to engage in multi-user video chats.
According to the Google spokeswoman, up to 10 people can join a Hangout chat at a time.
In addition, Google Talk has been integrated with Google+.
Google+ includes a new feature called “Sparks,” which displays links that correspond to each user’s interests, like music or fashion, on a Google News-like page.
Like other Google products, Google+ links to users’ other Google accounts, like Picasa.
Google says more Google+ features are in the works. According to the Google spokeswoman, "this is just the beginning."
The Google+ Web app is available for Android, iPad, and Blackberry - and an iPhone app is on the way.
This isn't the first time Google has tried to go social.
Google owns Brazil-based Orkut, which is popular in Brazil and India. Google Buzz is a social conversation tool which received a firestorm of criticism when it launched, in part due to its poor privacy system. Google Wave was Google's attempt at a social collaboration platform, which launched to poor popular reception last year.
As for Google's new social network, only time will tell if it's a success. Right now, only a relative small group of people have access to Google+. You can request here to be notified when more invitations are released - or hope your friends who are already on Google+ will invite you to join via the "Invite people" feature on their Google+ home screen (as tweeted by Jennifer 8. Lee).
One group of people who won't be joining Google+ anytime soon? The Chinese. Marketing firm Ren Media reports that China has blocked access to Google's new social site.