The Google+ project A quick look [video]

The inception of Google+ marked a pivotal moment in the evolution of social networking. When the fledgling service emerged from its chrysalis in June 2011, it signified Google’s most ambitious effort yet to challenge the dominion of Facebook.

Initially, access was restricted to those fortunate enough to receive one of the coveted early invites. Practically overnight, Google+ became a digital velvet rope granting entry to the elite of the social media realm. Demand far outstripped supply, forcing the abrupt suspension of the invitation process lest servers sink under the stampede.

Beneath the hype, Google was carefully assembling the building blocks of an integrated ecosystem tied together by the Google+ social layer. Features like Circles for managing contacts and Hangouts for group video chat hinted at a vision for connectivity that went beyond status updates. The addition of Sparks to share interests and Huddles for group messaging revealed aspirations around shared experiences as the atomic unit of community.

The service further distinguished itself by extending access across platforms, with desktop and mobile apps for both Android and iOS in the works from the start. It was a showcase for Google’s grand ambition – to weave its services so tightly into the fabric of users’ lives that the seams between technology and human experience effectively vanished.

For years, Facebook’s tremendous momentum seemed unstoppable. But by boldly staking its claim on the future of social interaction, seemingly overnight Google+ introduced genuine choice into what had been a one-horse race. It was now in a position to compete directly for the next generation’s attention – and engagement. With billions of users in the balance, the social network wars had begun in earnest.