Google this week opened up its Facebook clone, Google+, to the public, ending a three-month invite-only beta period. The online giant notes that the newly public Google+ also comes with numerous new features and changes.
"Google+ is still in its infancy but we're more excited than ever to bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software," Google Senior Vice President of Engineering Vic Gundrota wrote in a blog post announcing the public release. "Today we're releasing nine more features that get us that much closer."
Most of the biggest changes involve a unique Google+ feature called Hangouts, which lets two or more users interact over live video. With the public release, Google is adding Hangouts capabilities to Android-based smartphones. And now you can broadcast Hangouts video to non-participants via a new service called Hangouts On Air; this allows users to present video publicly to a large audience.
Google also introduced some Hangouts "extras" that provide additional functionality such as screen sharing, drawing, document sharing, and so on. Finally, Hangouts is being extended with APIs that developers can use to create new apps and games based on live video.
Google+ is also gaining search with personalization functionality, the company noted, improved SMS support for mobile users, and more customization features. The Huddle feature—which provides group communication—has been renamed Messenger and gets photo-sharing capabilities.
Meanwhile, Google's target with Google+, Facebook, isn't sitting still either. After rejiggering its sharing interface last month to allow for more obvious control over who sees what you're sharing, Facebook this week updated its News Feed to be more visual and more of a "landing page" that subscribers can use as a browser home page. The company will announce other initiatives at its developer event, called f8, on Thursday.