Google+ has been opened up for everyone to join after nearly three months in closed testing. Alongside its full-fledged public launch, Google has incorporated several new features in the social networking site, including an improved and expanded Hangout video-chat feature.
“We’re nowhere near done, but with the improvements we’ve made so far we’re ready to move from field trial to beta, and introduce our 100th feature: open signups,” Vic Gundotra, senior vice president of engineering at Google, writes in a blog post.
The improved Hangout feature allows Google+ users to video chat via their mobile phones as well. However, the feature currently only supports Android 2.3+ devices. Google says it will soon update the feature to support iOS devices.
Google has also rolled out “Hangouts On Air” feature, which enables Google+ users to publically broadcast their videos. “Once you’re ‘On Air,’ up to nine others can join your hangout (as usual), and anyone can watch your live broadcast,” says Gundotra.
The On Air facility is initially available with a limited number of broadcasters, but Google says any Google+ user can watch them. “In fact: we’ll be hosting our very first On Air hangout with will.i.am on Wednesday night, September 21, adds Gundotra.
In addition, Google has added a number of features in Hangouts, including screen sharing, Google Docs, sketchpads and named Named Hangouts.
Google has added a new “Search” functionality to its social network. “Just type what you’re looking for into the Google+ search box, and we’ll return relevant people and posts, as well as popular content from around the web,” Gundotra wrote. “If you’re into photography, for example, then you’ll see other enthusiasts and lots of great pictures. If you care more about cooking, then you’ll see other chefs and food from around the globe,” he continues.
To promote its new social networking site, Google has added “You+” button home page. If you open Google’s home page today, a virtual arrow will direct you to the new feature.
Google+ shot to popularity soon after it was launched in late June. In spite of being launched with a number of users, it became one of the fastest growing websites of late. With the growing popularity of Google+, it appeared Google had finally made it to the social networking segment and had a product which could give a good competition to Facebook.
With 25 million users, Google+ is still trailing Facebook and Twitter, which have 750 million and 100 million users respectively. However, opening up the service for public is likely to help Google+ increase those numbers.