It wasn't that long ago that it seemed like you couldn't get an invite to Google's new social network, Google+ for love or money. Those days are gone. Today, Google has opened up the network for everyone and anyone.
In a blog posting by Vic Gundotra, Google's Senior Vice President of Engineering, he announced that "For the past 12 weeks we've been in field trial, and during that time we've listened and learned a great deal. 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. This way anyone can visit google.com/+, join the project and connect with the people they care about."
Gundotra also announced that Hangouts, Google+'s live group video-conferencing has been expanded to mobile devices running Android 2.3 and higher. In addition, you can "broadcast" your video-conferences to an audience after the fact, share screens, set up a public hangout for a particular topic and work on Google Docs together. On top of that, just after opening the application programming interfaces (APIs) for Google+ public data, Google is opening up the API for Hangouts.
In addition, Google has expanded search to Google+. To quote Gundotra, "You've been asking for it, and we've been busy building it, so today we're bringing Google's search expertise 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."
That's the good news. The bad news is that Google is still leaving the annoying real-name issue up in the air. Mind you, I'm being followed all the time by people with "names" that I don't believe for a minute are their real names, but there they are and Google still insists that people must use their real name. Come on Google, decide on a policy--my pick is to let anyone call themselves what they will but don't allow them to be totally anonymous and have multiple accounts-and stick with it already.
That aside, I really like these news features. Better still, I love that now everyone can see why I've been raving about Google+ over Facebook and Twitter.