Google has opened Google+ up to the public, following a 90-day invitation-only field trial.
Google has opened Google+ to the public, and made updates to the Hangouts videoconference feature.Photo credit: CNET News
The social network is now in open beta, and anyone can sign up, Google engineering vice
president Vic Gundotra said in a blog
post on Tuesday. The company also announced the renaming of
Google+'s 'Huddle' messaging system as 'Messenger', the ability to
broadcast Hangouts multi-party video-chats to the public, and the
option of collaborating on Google Docs through the Hangouts feature.
"For the past 12 weeks we've been in field trial, and during that
time we've listened and learned a great deal," Gundotra wrote. "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 sign-ups. This way anyone can visit google.com/+, join
the project and connect with the people they care about."
There are scant details about the number of people who currently
use Google+, although ComScore said there were 25 million users a
month joining the limited field trial. Leading social network Facebook,
by way of contrast, has around 750 million users.
We're nowhere near done, but with the improvements we've made so far we're ready to move from field trial to beta.– Vic Gundotra, Google
The launch of the public beta came shortly after Google
released on Friday the first
Google+ API, which allows developers to build apps that can
automatically read data posted publicly on the service. Further APIs
should stimulate a variety of third-party Google+ apps — beyond the
games that already
exist — and the company made a developer preview of the
Hangouts API available on Tuesday.
The Hangouts API lets developers build web apps that can be used in
the Google+ video-chat sessions. "Your app behaves like a normal web app, plus it can
take part in the real-time conversation with new APIs, like
synchronisation," Richard Dunn, the technical lead on Google+ platform
for Hangouts, explained in another blog
However, there is still no word on when Google will allow
businesses to set
up their own pages on the social network, as they can on Facebook.
The service is also not usable with Google Apps accounts, as those accounts do not yet support Google Profiles.
first appeared on 28 June with many mobile-leaning features,
including a group-messaging service called Huddle. In a separate blog
post on Tuesday, Google+ mobile product manager Punit Soni introduced a number of updates to the mobile side of the social-networking tool, including the renaming of Huddle to Messenger and the introduction of the ability to share photos in a Messenger session.
The Google+ app can now be moved to the
SD card on Android devices, so as to clear space on a phone's
internal memory, Soni said. Mobile users of the social network can now edit
their profile picture and customise which notifications they receive.
As part of the mobile refresh, people in the US and India gained the ability to post to Google+ using SMS, Soni
said. Google+ users with iOS handsets can now '+1' a comment from their phones, with Android to follow soon. Mobile users can also add people's names into posts
However, the big mobile announcement, according to Soni, is the
added ability to conduct Hangouts from phones with forward-facing
"Seeing someone face-to-face is one of the most important ways you
can connect with them," Soni said. "Unfortunately we're often too
busy, too far away, or too unpredictable to make meet-ups a regular
occurrence. That's why we're making Hangouts available on phones with
Android 2.3+ and front-facing cameras (iOS support coming soon)."
The option of broadcasting Hangouts videoconferences to the public
is another key new feature.
"Sometimes you want to speak to a large audience, or alternatively,
view as a spectator. In these cases, a public broadcast is what's
needed, so today we're introducing Hangouts On Air," Gundotra wrote.
"The setup is simple enough: just start a normal Hangout, and you'll
have the option to broadcast and record your session. Once you're 'On
Air', up to nine others can join your Hangout (as usual), and anyone
can watch your live broadcast."
Gundotra pointed out that while any Google+ user can tune into
Hangouts On Air, the company is starting with a limited set of
broadcasters. The first On Air session will take place on Wednesday
night, featuring Black Eyed Peas musician Will.i.am, who is also Intel's director of creative
Google also launched a preview of Hangouts with Extras, which provides more features for the
videoconferencing service. These include
screen-sharing, a collaborative sketchpad and integrated Google Docs
Finally, the company has improved the search function on Google+,
allowing users to scour the social network for posts and people that
match their interests.
"If you're into photography, for example, then you'll see other
enthusiasts and lots of great pictures," Gundotra wrote. "If you care
more about cooking, then you'll see other chefs and food from around
the globe. In all cases, Google+ search results include items that
only you can see, so family updates are just as easy to find as
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