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Google+ Goes Public

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Google+ 'Hangouts' is a browser-based group conferencing app that lets up to 10 people to chat via video. (Image: Christian Ferrari)
Google+ 'Hangouts' is a browser-based group conferencing app that lets up to 10 people to chat via video. (Image: Christian Ferrari)

BUSINESS

  • Google’s social network opened to public; remains in beta testing
  • Hangouts, improved SMS support among new features added
  • Facebook expected to respond with raft of new developments

Google launched the next phase of its attack on Facebook by opening its social networking website to the public.

Launched in June, Google+ underwent not quite three months of limited field trials. While still in beta testing, Google has now removed the invitation-only restriction as it tries to lure away Facebook’s 750 million users.

A new range of features have been added to the website, including improved search functions that allow users to see news on any given topic and what other users are saying about it, as well as providing search results from external internet sites.

Many more developments have come with Hangouts, a new browser-based group conferencing app that allows up to 10 people to chat together via video. Users can also broadcast or record video sessions via Hangouts On Air, with up to nine people able to participate in another live Hangout. Any number of users can tune in.

The On Air concept was inspired by early Google+ sign-up Daria Musk who played her original songs live on air. The feature is expected to be similar to the live events periodically broadcast on Google’s YouTube.

Hangouts On Air will initially be restricted to a handful of broadcasters, with the Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am scheduled to appear during the first live session.

An Android Plus

Google+ has gone one, if not several, up on Apple’s face-to-face video chats on the iPhone. Owners of Google Android Gingerbread devices with front facing cameras will be able to use the Google+ app to initiate or join group Hangouts online with their smartphone or tablet PC.

iPhone users will also soon be able to Hangout with other Google+ users, according to a blog post from Punit Soni, head of Google+ mobile products.

Another major improvement with Google+ is better SMS support, with users on US and Indian mobile networks able to update their profiles, respond to group messages and access news from other users via short message.

The Google+ launch comes two days before the annual Facebook conference for software developers and just days after Google+ invited developers to begin construction on its own armada of social network apps.

Google’s official line is that it only releases products when they are ready for users to dive in and explore. But going public just before Facebook’s “F8” conference may be more than just a coincidence.

Industry analysts expect Facebook to make a lot of noise at the conference about its new developments, including an updated version of News Feeds and a brand new media platform.

Key Statistics – Google+ (source: Trak.in)

  • Google+ is the fastest growing social network; it hit 25 million users in one month. (source: Google-plus.com)
  • Google+ users are mainly from the US, followed by India in second place and then Brazil, the UK, Canada, Germany and France in other top user-location spots.
  • Google+ gender split is over 70% male and under 30% female.
  • According to occupation, current users are chiefly engineers, developers, designers, software engineers and web developers (during the Google+ trial phase).

By James Mulholland for
James Mulholland is a Paris-based internet and broadcast journalist specializing in sports, current affairs and technology news, while also freelancing as a photographer.

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