Over the past 12 weeks Google’s new social network Google+ has been in “field trial” mode; the only way to gain access into it was by receiving an invite from Google or friends who were invited into the network early. Today all that changes. Google+ is now in beta and open signups are available for everyone. Simply point your browser to google.com/+ to see what all the fuss is about.
Over the course of the field trial, Google claims to have made 91 different improvements to the network. I will share with you the ones that Google finds most exciting.
- The mobile version of Google+ getting an upgrade. Hangouts can now be initiated on the go. When you see an active Hangout in your stream, tap Join to enter it. As of right now Hangouts only supports Android 2.3+ devices with front-facing cameras, but Google promises that the feature will make its way to iOS soon. Update: The iOS update has arrived: link.
- Also on the mobile front… Huddle is being renamed Messenger and it now supports photo sharing. Additionally you can now edit your profile photo, customize your notifications, and (on Android devices) you can move the Google+ app to SD storage to save space.
- On the desktop version of Google+ the company has introduced Hangouts On Air. Users can broadcast and record video sessions; up to nine others can join your hangout (as usual); and here’s the new feature: anyone can watch your live broadcast.
- Additional updates to Hangouts include: screensharing, sketchpad, shared Google Docs, and named Hangouts (“for when you want to join or create a public hangout about a certain topic”). Also, Hangouts APIs are now available for developers to fiddle with.
- Search comes to Google+: “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.”
Click the source links to read about even more improvements, then login to your Google+ account and interact with ‘em first hand.
When they first unleashed their social service unto the world, Google promised that it was just the beginning and that there was so much more to come. The first major addition to added since Google+‘s launch is games. Google’s partnered up with a handful of developers to bring popular games to Plus including Angry Birds, Zynga Poker, and Bejeweled Blitz. Google is giving Games its own section; a new Games icon is located right next to the Circles button at the top of the interface. Google reassures users that “Games in Google+ are there when you want them and gone when you don’t.” This means that you shouldn’t expect games-related news to fill up your Stream; Google is clear about keeping that area “focused on conversations with the people you care about.” When you want to browse and play games, see game notifications, and find out what games your friends played recently, you must enter the Games section of Google+. From the get-go Google is drawing a line between conversations and gameplay, and this is something I think most users will instantly appreciate.
Google says that the Games section is starting to roll out to Google+ users today and it will be made “fully available to everyone soon.”
When Google pushed out their new social service Google+ they simultaneously gave Android users a way to access their accounts on their phones in a handy dandy app. Up until now, iPhone users have been forced to login and check their accounts inside the Safari browser. Today, thankfully, Google has pushed out a native Google+ app for iPhone users. The app’s homescreen includes Stream, Huddle, Photos, Profile, Circles, and a Notifications tray. In Stream you can view new posts from your Circle mates, those that are Nearby (if you allow the app to tag your location), and Incoming posts; you can also check-in at places and obviously send out posts and attach pictures to them. In Photos you can view pictures that have been uploaded by your Circle mates, photos of you, from your albums, and from your phone. In Profile you can view (but cannot edit) your About page, your Posts and Photos. In Circles, you can see all of your Circle mates, tap them to view their profiles, and from there you can move and/or remove them from Circles; you can also create new Circles. And lastly there’s Huddle, the one feature that has been exclusive to Android users until now. With Huddle you can initiate a group messaging experience that gathers together selected friends or circles so you can chat together in one space; users can be searched by name, email, and circle.
And that about covers the Google+ app for iPhone. Download it today for free from the App Store. Note that it is only compatible with iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 3G; Google has not specified when (or if) the app will make its way to other iOS devices (i.e. the iPad and iPod touch).
Google is the king of search. But when it comes to social networking…well, we only have to look at Wave (an experiment that failed) and Buzz (a Twitter competitor that never caught on) for that answer. With Google+, the search giant takes aim at Facebook and it wants to become the destination for socializing with the people you know and the ones you’ll make down the road. The Google+ Project is currently in “Field Test” mode meaning that the company is still working out the kinks and tweaking and adding features to the service while a small selection of users try it out. The project is by invitation-only, and I was able to snag an invite earlier today. Read on after the break as I take you on a tour through the interface and the handful of features the service currently offers.