Picture 47ShareGrove, a San Mateo, Calif.-startup aiming to deepen online social interaction between close friends, just launched a new beta test for private group conversations and sharing on the web.

The company retooled its user interface from the last time we saw it at the DEMO conference last fall. ShareGrove has pared down the look and feel of the site — to me, it resembles a private room in FriendFeed (like the one we use to coordinate our reporting at VentureBeat).

“We ended up with a simpler experience, while still preserving the core functions of private, rich and real-time online conversation,” said co-founder Kent Libbey.

The premise of ShareGrove is that there should be a private real-time space where a small group of friends or colleagues can interact. It uses Facebook Connect to bring a person’s closest friends into a space that’s a hybrid between e-mail, a Facebook wall and group chat. So if you’re not quite comfortable with Facebook’s new privacy scheme or if you want to have an in-depth conversation with a couple friends, this could be a solution.

ShareGrove immediately updates the page whenever a member of the group posts an item. It has rich embedding options that let you post videos, links, maps and files. It can also automatically find images to attach, so if you type in the name of a book on Amazon, that will appear in a left-hand column as an object that you can drag and drop into the comment.

There are number of startups that already address private conversations and sharing. Although it’s mainly known as a short-form blogging platform, Tumblr recently launched private, password-protected blogs. With commenting and likes, it could be used in a similar way. Drop.io also offers private file-sharing and collaboration services. Facebook, of course, gives users the opportunity to share items with as few or as many friends as a person wants, but it’s better designed for lightweight interaction.

ShareGrove is seed funded by Elm Street Ventures.