“Today, the connections between people increasingly happen online,” Google executive Vic Gundotra wrote in a statement announcing Google+. “Yet the subtlety and substance of real-world interactions are lost in the rigidness of our online tools. In this basic, human way, online sharing is awkward. Even broken. And we aim to fix it. We’d like to bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software.”

Check the video below for more details, but basically Google+ is a more layered version of Facebook, built around something dubbed “Circles.” The idea is simple: You don’t have just one kind of friend, and you shouldn’t have just one kind of online social circle. So unlike Facebook, Google+ allows you to create a whole bunch of circles – co-workers, for instance, or best friends – and share content and comments specifically with each circle.

gle2Meanwhile, Google+ will also get the so-called “Sparks” feature, which is essentially a variation on the Facebook “like” functionality: See something you like, and you can instantly post it to your profile. Of course, since this is Google we’re talking, the Sparks button will likely be omnipresent. But have no fear! Google is really stressing the security thing.

“You and over a billion others trust Google, and we don’t take this lightly,” Gundotra wrote. “In fact we’ve focused on the user for over a decade: liberating data, working for an open Internet, and respecting people’s freedom to be who they want to be. We realize, however, that Google+ is a different kind of project, requiring a different kind of focus – on you.”

That “different focus” comes by way of a dynamic and varied table of security and privacy options – something it took Facebook a long time to do. In fact, Ben Parr writes over at Mashable, just about everything Google+ does is about facing down Facebook.

“The two companies are in heated competition for talent, page views and consumers,” Parr writes. “While Google controls the search market and has a strong presence on mobile with Android, it hasn’t been able to crack the social nut. Its most successful social product, YouTube, had to be acquired, and it still ranks as one of the most expensive acquisitions in the company’s history.”