Google has begun rolling out a preview of a Google+ groups feature, allowing users to form public and private groups centered around a topic or brand, according to a blog post written by Google VP Vic Gundotra.
Using a Communities button on the menu along the left side of the page in Google+, users can form groups or search by category for groups they may want to join. Group users can participate in events or video-chat Hangouts.
Users will also be able to share to their Community using +1 buttons around the Web, said Gundotra.
Google says 500 million people have upgraded to Google+ accounts. Of those, 235 million use Google+ features such as Hangouts or +1 but just 135 million are active on Google+ pages.
“Today Google+ is the fastest-growing network thingy ever,” Gundotra said.
The Communities feature launched with groups that are largely commercial in nature, suggesting that Google is eyeing revenue upsides. The Communities include Star Wars, Audi USA, a Knitting Lodge sponsored by Yarn Mountain, a group on space and one for Liverpool FC Fans.
Gundotra also announced that the company will also deliver on its September acquisition of Nik Software with a launch of that company’s Instagram-like Snapseed app for iPhone and Android. Photo buffs were concerned that the acquisition would result in degredation of the popular Snapseed app (see this post) — it will be interesting to see how the new apps hold up.