Google+ Hits Beta, Opens Signups, Launches 9 New Features

Google+ has been around for roughly 3 months now, and through that time Google has made more than 91 enhancements to the network. Today is marked as the day where the biggest changes were made. Google+ originally began with a limited “field trial” that was accessible by invitation only, generally aimed at journalists and people within the tech industry. As things progressed, members could invite friends, and Google+’s userbase blasted sky high, into tens of millions.

Two weeks after the initial launch, Google announced that the network had reached 10 million users. Not long after that, web analytic firm Comscore estimated that membership had reached 25 million by the end of the first month.

And now: the evolution

Google+ launched without a search function. “Don’t try to find anything, you can’t.” But, now Google has finally implemented a search function! Hurrah! Within Google+ you can now search for people and posts by using the search box at the top of the screen. You can also filter results by searching “Best of” something, or “Most recent”.

But that’s not all. Google+ has moved from their limited “field trial” to an official “beta”, allowing anyone to register and join in on the fun.

Hangouts, Google+’s multi-user video chat that has become a huge hit among users, also received some feature upgrades. The most significant being the ability to Hangout from your mobile device. At present this is only available for the Google+ app on Android, but Google is planning to launch the iOS app soon.

You’re also able to use a feature called “on air” – it’s a public video broadcast. Within the live broadcast you can add up to 9 people for simultaneous chat, but anyone has the ability to watch. At the moment this is limited to certain broadcasters, but it gives you an idea of the potential of social conversions through video.

There’s also some cool new “extras” within Hangouts

Screensharing: if you want to show your friends or family some photos, new graphic design work, or whatever else you might have on your screen

Sketchpad: for social drawing. Who wants to art jam?!

Google Docs: for writing, planning, or presenting something with other people. This could potentially be huge within businesses, especially those that presently use Google Docs. Into working remotely, anyone..?

Name Hangouts: this is similar to a chat room, open to the public and designed around a specific topic

Be aware, these features are still under construction.

With the recent limited API launch, everyone has been dying for more. Well you asked for it? You got it! Google has also released an API for Hangouts. We can only imagine the number of spinoff sites and apps that will take advantage of this.

Facebook’s response

Google+ hasn’t been ignored by the competition. It’s ignited mobilization.

Facebook has launched a series of innovative features that many people thought was a direct response to Google’s Plus Project, however Facebook has insisted that these have been part of their strategy all along.

Facebook has revamped their friend system, making it easier to add and organize people into categories, which is very similar to Google+’s Circles.

Earlier in the week Facebook also announced that users will be able to connect their status updates directly to their Twitter feed, a little taste of cross promotion that may keep users loyal awhile longer.

Conversely, Google is in an unusual position, playing a minority role within the social market, up against Twitter’s 200 million users and Facebook’s 750 million.

Google expects that people will use many different tools to share, and views social media as place to innovate and grow. They’ve fired the cannons on this one, and right before Facebook’s big upcoming f8 conference. Prepare for glory.

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