Google has been flirting with social networking from the sidelines for a while now. First they tried to reinvent the wheel with Wave, then there was the vaguely Twitter-like Buzz, and just a couple months ago the company sought to make basic searches more social with +1. Now, Google has decided the time is right to step forward with a full-featured, unabashed social networking service that aims right for the king of the hill: Facebook. The new service is called Google+, and while it's not open to the public yet, you can get a preview and video tour over at Google.

Google+'s claim to fame lies in pairing tight sharing controls with new tools for socializing online. The "Circles" feature lets you put all of your contacts in groups so you can decide exactly who will see what you post, while "Hangouts" and "Huddle" are group video and text messaging clients respectively. Some of the principles remind us of the much talked-about Diaspora project, but of course Google is actually in a position to deliver and support such a holy grail Facebook alternative.

Sign up and wait patiently for an invite here. We know we are.

[Google Blog]