Google+ Opens Social Network to the Public

Have you been dying to get on Google+? Well, today is your lucky day. Google’s social networking site opens to the public.

Over the summer, Google+ – Google’s addition to the social networking landscape - generated a great deal of buzz: Is it good? Does it improve on other social networking sites? Will it be a serious contender for Facebook? Up until today, the site was still in testing; however, after 90 days of field testing, Google+ has opened to the public. Vic Gundotra, Senior Vice President of Engineering of Google posted the following: ““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+, join the project and connect with the people they care about.”

Now, any user over 18 can join Google+: no invitation required. How can you find Google+? Go to www.google.com and you’ll find a doodle. Yes, a doodle. The doodle is an arrow directing you to the top left corner of your screen. Click on the “You” icon and you’ll have the opporunity to sign up for the social networking site.

To celebrate the launch Google+ added several new featuers to the network. Of particular interest, they have improved the search function as well as Hangouts. Gundotra wrote that, “We think Hangouts should keep pace with how you socialize in the real-world, so today we’re launching it on the one device that’s always by your side: your mobile phone.”

As for searches, Google+ has included a box which will yeild results from both the web and the social network. Gundotra notes: “If you’re into photography, for example, then you’ll see other enthusiasts and lots of great pictures. 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 international news.”

Google has also added Hangouts On Air where users can speak to a larger audience via a public broadcast feature: “Google+ users already use Hangouts to create intimate onscreen experiences—with family members, prayer groups, even people with certain medical conditions. But sometimes you want to speak to a large audience, or alternatively, view as a spectator.”

Of course, for the users that did not previously have access to the social network, these changes won’t mean much. Instead, the “average” user will get their first taste of Google+. This, combined with Facebook’s most recent updates, make for a busy day for social media users. Amongst the chaos, Google+ will face its toughest challenge yet: living up to the hype. While many experts believe that Google+ will be Facebook’s first real competitor, the public launch is a major stepping stone to taking on the social media giant. Will you be joining Google+ or is one major social network enough?

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