Google+ is the newest social media kid on the block, and after a few months in invite-only public beta, it’s now open to everyone. Plus, the site has already added some neat new features.
Vic Gundotra, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Google, announced the move on a blog post that’s parts of a series announcing 100 new Google+ features. The announcement is the 100th feature.
Google+ has been one of the most talked-about social media debuts this year, even if apparently a lot of people who have been lucky enough to get invites have tried it out for a while and then become inactive. I’ve certainly been guilty of this, but Google is hoping that they’ll be able to get these new users to switch from Facebook and Twitter.
Hopefully, these new features will be more successful than the “suggested users” feature.
Google+’s hangouts feature has been one of the most successful features on the service, with some people coming up with ingenious uses such as cooking classes and live concerts. Now users will be able to access the hangouts on their mobile phones. The first smartphone to have a Google+ app is Android (no surprise there), with an iOS app scheduled to come out later, so iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch users with front-facing cameras won’t be left out in the cold.
And speaking of hangouts, Google has tweaked this feature as well. Seeing that they’d accidentally built a good IPTV platform, Google has decided to make it official. Now in hangouts you can broadcast your sessions to the world, as well as being able to record them for later. This feature will be enabled for a limited number of users, probably so Google doesn’t blow out their bandwidth on live streams. The first Google hosted will be on September 21 and will apparently involve will.i.am.
There are some other neat features related to hangouts. You’ll be able to share your screen with others, as well as being able to doodle with your friends on an online sketchpad. You can even share your Google Docs with the other people in your hangout. “Named hangouts” which anybody can join will also be available.
The first three features make Google+ into a credible business conferencing platform instead of just a fun social network. They’re still experimental, and you access them by selecting “Try Hangouts with extras” while you’re in the green room.
If you’re a programmer, Google is also introducing an API for hangouts. It’ll be interesting to see what cool apps people come up with using it.
Finally, since Google is still the undisputed champion of search, no upgrade would be complete without some improvement in that regard. You can now search for posts and users within Google+.
With these new features, Google+ is becoming more than just “not Facebook,” as one xkcd comic put it. It’s slowly but surely gaining its own identity. Google+ will hopefully get better and better over time.