Google announces slew of new products

Google Circles

+Circles enables you to share selectively

The big announcement today is Google+, the search giant's newest foray into social networking, but lost in the bustle about that are two other interesting products: Google Web Fonts and Swiffy.

Hundreds of free, open source web fonts are now accessible via the Google Web Fonts API, and there's even a handy directory that enables you to browse the fonts and view them in a dynamic sample layout. You can create a custom collection of fonts, and the code required to add them to your site is generated for you. There's a quick-start tutorial here.

Another ultra-handy resource that's out in Labs now is Swiffy, a tool that enables you to display Flash animations on devices that don't support Flash. Upload a SWF file and Swiffy generates an HTML5 version that works in WebKit browsers. The resultant file is apparently not much bigger than the original. You can see a gallery of Swiffy's accomplishments here.

Google+ is the latest (and greatest?) try at cracking the social networking nut. Four features have been announced: +Circles, +Sparks, +Hangouts and +Mobile.

+Circles may be the most interesting of these because it presents a solution to one of Facebook's key weaknesses - namely that it shares everything with everyone, which typically isn't what people want. "The problem [with] today’s online services is that ... every online conversation (with over 100 “friends”) is a public performance, so we often share less because of stage fright," says Google. Quite. +Circles enables you to create groups of people - family, school friends, colleagues and so on - and share things that are appropriate to each group. Circles are built by dragging and dropping contacts from a list drawn from your Gmail.

+Sparks is a "sharing engine" that gives you a feed of cool things related to a topic of your choice, and is designed to spark conversations about said cool things. +Hangouts enables you to set your status to "Hanging out" to let people in your Circles know that you're in front of your webcam, ready to hang out. Contacts can then join your Hangout for a video chat. +Mobile is a collection of features for your mobile device that enable you to add your location to your posts, instantly upload every picture you take to a private album, and chat in real time with your Circles via a group messaging system called Huddle.

Everything is tied together with a new black bar that appears at the top of all your Google pages to give instant access to all the tools. The black bar is operational now, but the new features are available on an invite-only basis.