Vittorio Hernandez

Google will launch a new social networking service in an apparent bid to compete with Facebook.

The new service, called Google+, makes available to users streaming photos, messages, comments and other content updates from the members' group of friends.

According to Google Vice President for Product Management Bradley Horowitz, the new service will integrate with Google's maps and images, and aims to help people organize better their circle of friends.

According to Internet monitor ComScore, online users spend 13 percent of the total hours they spend on the Internet on Facebook and 10 percent on Google.

An analyst from Forrester Research pointed out that Google+ does not compete directly with Facebook, but builds on a niche created by the latter to link people from specific groups of friendship or affiliation.

It is not Google's first attempt at social networking. In 2004, the search engine firm launched the Orkut site, however, the service was a hit mainly in emerging economies such as Brazil, but failed to match Facebook's global usage, which has more than 500 million members.

In 2009, Google introduced the Buzz service on its Gmail, but the service encountered problems with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over privacy issues, which led to a Google settlement in March with the FTC.

Google, which tested Google+ internally and is now preparing to gradually make the service available to Internet users, will initially limit the service to some users. The limited service would probably be similar to the search engine's Gmail service, which initially accepted users upon invitation of a registered user.