Google+ is a new (and currently pretty beta) social network from Google. Sounds exciting doesn’t it? No, you’re right – it doesn’t…but this could indeed be something exciting. Having played with it today due to being one of the lucky horde that caused the invite process to be shut downI can say that it appears to be doing some things right – however it appears to be doing these things right because it’s copying things that have been done right before.

On the face of it, it looks very similar to Facebook. Scarily similar in fact; but then why change a winning formula? The similarities however don’t end at the aesthetics. Just like Facebook, you have a home page full of status updates, photos and so on from your ‘circles’ (i.e. friends). Just like Facebook you can ‘like’ (or “+1” in Google speak) updates and comments. Just like Facebook you get live notifications. Just like Facebook you can set a group of interests (or ‘sparks’ as the trendy people at Google call it), and just like Facebook you can have live chats with your friends.

All in, it’s very, very much like Facebook.

Admittedly, Google+ seems to be clean, fast and streamlined, and it also does have some things Facebook is lacking, such as ‘Hangouts’ which are ad-hoc video conferences with your friends via webcam, but none of these things are particularly earth-shattering to the average Facebook user – especially in light of the fact that there’s currently no way to carry over your friendships, likes, photos or indeed any other information from Facebook to Google+. Basically this means you have to start all over again just to get back to where you were before!

The reason behind Google+ is simple: advertising. Facebook knows a lot more about its users, and it can pass that information on to advertisers allowing for highly targeted advertising – Google on the other hand makes all of its money from essentially looking at what you search for, and makes quite a few assumptions based on that and a limited number of other factors. Google quite obviously wants in on this highly targeted marketing opportunity and this is the way to do it.

It’s too early to say if Google+ will be a ‘Facebook killer’ – Google’s earlier attempts at dominating the market such as Wave and Buzz didn’t do particularly well despite their massive initial uptake, however Google+ is a very accomplished product with obvious uses. Google’s job now is to encourage people to make the move, and it’s sure that Facebook will be as unhelpful as possible the whole way.