Rumors surrounding a Google social network came to a head on Saturday as a leak provided early details of how it would work and a heavy mobile component. Now thought to be called Google +1 to reflect a cornerstone 'like' feature, it would be significantly different compared Facebook and focus on an optional browser extension instead of a website. An iPhone app would figure prominently not just in the service but in clues as to the overall strategy, TechCrunch was told alongside the rumor: tentatively called Loop, the app would reflect social circles known as "loops" where most information would be shared.
It's considered near-certain that a version of Loop would exist for Android and might propagate to other mobile platforms as well.
The service and its mobile side might risk angering a number of companies, particularly Facebook. Although the Loop app is unfinished and should be significantly different, parts of it resembled Facebook's own efforts, one observer said. Facebook groups may have been rushed to prevent the search engine from having the feature first. Google and Facebook have been in a fight over data exports that is widely believed to hinge on Facebook's worries that Google would compete against it. Allowing two-way export for Facebook contacts would let users defect more easily to a rival service, although Facebook has tried to raise privacy worries by noting that many exports could have personal details exported without consent.
The location-based social service Loopt (pictured in the title graphic) would also likely object to the Loop name if it was applied to the final app.
Google chief Eric Schmidt has publicly denied any attempts to create a direct Facebook clone. The statement might be accurate regardless of whether or not the service existed, but Google +1 could have core similarities that would draw inevitable comparisons to Facebook's Like option in feeds and on websites. Encouraging the use of mobile apps would also take a cue from Facebook, which has native apps or direct integration on virtually every mobile platform from the iPhone through to webOS and Windows Phone 7.