New Google+ Features Announced
December 6, 2012

Google Keeps Trying, Announces New Features For Google+

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

When Google launched their own social networking service, Google+, many asked just one question: “Why?”

There are already plenty of options in the social landscape, including the gargantuan Facebook, the quick and easy Twitter, and the collection-based Pinterest. Yet, Google has continued to forge ahead, integrating Google+ into other Google services– such as their Play store– and elsewhere across the web. While there was an initial rush to sign up with the new service, Google+ has since been referred to as a “Ghost Town” and has been largely seen as the social network for the Android-loving Geek set. No matter, Google forges onward, refusing to cede any ground and roll over to the competition. It´s hard not to give such a company a small amount of respect for refusing to quit.

Today, members of Google´s top brass are once again singing the praises of Google+, boasting about their new numbers and their recent photo acquisitions that they hope will place them on the same playing field as Facebook and Twitter before them.

True to Google form, they´ve taken to their official blog (itself just one of Google´s many offerings) to announce that Google+ now has 125 million users “active in just the stream.”

Vic Gundotra, Google´s senior vice president, also mentions in the blog that more than 500 million people have “upgraded” and 235 million people are now “active” across Google, or giving a +1 of approval for apps in the Play store, “hanging out” in Gmail, or searching for their friends.

“We have a momentum story,” said Google Plus´ vice president Brad Horowitz, speaking to the Wall Street Journal. Those 235 million users who are actively using Google+ in the aforementioned ways is up from 100 million in late June, showing some significant growth in 2012 alone.

In order to keep this number growing, Google today has announced Google+ Communities. These communities will be centered on certain topics, such as Audi automobiles, Call of Duty, knitting and, of course, Star Wars. In Google+ Communities, users can be a part of public or private groups wherein anything shared in these groups is seen only by their members. Users can also initiate Google Hangouts with members of this community. Gundotra writes in the blog that these communities will begin rolling out today as a preview, noting that mobile will be on its way soon.

“The new tools make it easier and more straightforward for you to find your tribe, your peeps, and to hang out,” explained Horowitz in his interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Google has also rolled out the Android version of Nik Software´s Snapseed, a photo-editing app that began as iOS only until the search giant purchased Nik in September.

Snapseed allows users to add some professional-like touches to their photos. Like most photo editing apps, Snapseed allows users to add some basic filters, like black & white and vintage to their photos, but Snapseed goes even further. Users can select specific areas of the photo they´d like to touch up, increasing or decreasing the amount of brightness, saturation and sharpness to their photos.

As it´s now a member of Google´s family, users will be able to share their edited photos directly with their Google+ communities, groups and friends. Snapseed remains in the iOS App Store, but as of today, both the Android and iOS versions are available for free.

Horowitz was at the Business Insider´s Ignition conference last week and spoke about what separates his company´s social offerings from Facebook, placing heavy emphasis on just how Facebook utilizes ads.

“When you and I are having a conversation, the least opportune thing you can do is have some guy with a sandwich board run between us and try to sell me a sandwich,” said Horowitz.

“I´m trying to connect with someone and communicate in that sacred space. It doesn´t matter if I like the sandwich“¦ That is the wrong moment to dangle a sandwich in front of me.”

Both Gundotra and Horowitz have been touting Google+ as a way to interact with friends and family without being bogged down by ads or difficult interface choices. Now all that´s left to be seen is how many people will shift their attention from the other networks to Google´s.