Wired's Steven Levy is reporting that Andy Hertzfeld, is one of the designers from Steve Jobs' band of pirates, who has played an essential role in the design of Google's social project "Google+," which the search giant released today.
With colorful animations, drag-and-drop magic, and whimsical interface touches, Circles looks more like a classic Apple program than the typically bland Google app. That's no surprise since the key interface designer was legendary software artist Andy Hertzfeld.
Google+ is currently invitee only.
Some parts of it certainly seem to appear similar to what we've seen before. One significant component is a continuous scroll called "the stream" that's an alternative to Facebook's news feed -- a hub of personalized content. It has a companion called "Sparks," related to one's specified interests. Together they are designed to be a primary attention-suck of Google users. Google hopes that eventually people will gravitate to the stream in the same way that members of Facebook or Twitter constantly check those continuous scrolls of personalized information.
Google+ is not a typical release. Developed under the code name Emerald Sea, it is the result of a lengthy and urgent effort involving almost all of the company's products. Hundreds of engineers were involved in the effort. It has been a key focus for new CEO Larry Page.
The parts announced Tuesday represent only a portion of Google's plans. In an approach the company refers to as "rolling thunder," Google has been quietly been pushing out pieces of its ambitious social strategy -- there are well over 100 launches on its calendar. When some launches were greeted by yawns, the Emerald Sea team leaders weren't ruffled at all -- lack of drama is part of the plan. Google has consciously refrained from contextualizing those products into its overall strategy.
That will begin now, with the announcement of the two centerpieces of Google+. But even this moment -- revealed in a blog post that marks the first limited "field tests" outside the company -- will be muted, because it marks just one more milestone in a long, tough slog to remake Google into something more "people-centric."
"We're transforming Google itself into a social destination at a level and scale that we've never attempted -- orders of magnitude more investment, in terms of people, than any previous project," says Vic Gundotra, who leads Google's social efforts.