How Google+ is built


If you’re curious about all things Google+, you’re in luck. The project’s technical lead, Google engineer Joseph Smarr, is currently hosting an online question and answer session about the service — and he has already shared a number of details about Google+’s development, technology, and plans for the future.

On Monday, Smarr opened himself up for questions on Q&A website, a Y-Combinator-backed┬ásite reminiscent of where users can invite others to “ask me anything.” People sign in to post questions on AnyAsq through their Twitter accounts, but a host’s responses can be longer than 140 characters.

Smarr has already answered 270 queries, and as of press time, his AnyAsq page is still open for questions. Here’s some of what he has revealed so far:

  • Google+ fast tracked its development from the start
    “We put extra emphasis on engineering speed/agility–we try to release code updates on a daily basis while still keeping quality/stability/latency as high as you’d expect from Google.”
  • New features are absolutely on the way
    “…Personally I’m eager for many of the features other Google+ users have asked for recently: smarter ranking/collapsing/filtering in the stream and notifications… integration with more Google products… and an API so I can start hacking on cool uses of circles, etc.”
  • Hashtags are on Google+’s radar
    In response to a question about adding hashtags to help filter Google+ posts, Smarr responded: “Personally, I want this too.”
  • There was some fancy footwork on the programming front
    “A couple nifty tricks we do: we use the HTML5 History API to maintain pretty-looking URLs even though it’s an AJAX app (falling back on hash-fragments for older browsers); and we often render our Closure templates server-side so the page renders before any JavaScript is loaded, then the JavaScript finds the right DOM nodes and hooks up event handlers, etc. to make it responsive.”

Although none of Smarr’s responses have been shockingly revealing, the AnyAsq activity is just the latest example of how Google has worked hard to project an air of openness throughout the entire Google+ launch. Where the now-defunct Google Wave was developed with an air of secrecy that ultimately confused users as to its purpose, Google’s strategy with the Plus project has been one of transparency and agility — a “done is better than perfect” attitude. So far, it’s been a refreshing approach. The challenge for the future will be maintaining that flexibility as Google+ grows.

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