Google Plus zooms in on images

Google+ champions photos

Christmas is often regarded as a time to rekindle contact with people we care about, or celebrate close bonds already in place... and, accordingly, Google+ has jumped at the chance to increase its focus on communities - particularly through improved photograph facilities.

In its official blog, on 6 December, Google said: "Google+ has always been a place to crowd around common interests and meet new people. What's been missing, however, are more permanent homes for all the stuff you love: the wonderful, the weird, and yes, even the things that are waaay out there."

As well as enabling the creation of groups and a discussion search tool for niche interests, Google+ is also championing the Android version of Nik Software, which it acquired in September. Nik was voted iPad app of the year in 2011 and allows people to edit and embellish their photographs online.

Visual power

Online images provoke emotional responses, whether fond memories which connect people across time and space, or brand new sights which inspire awe - and thereby demand to be shared more widely. If we see something which touches or amazes us, we want others to see it too.

It's hardly surprising, therefore, that Pinterest has enjoyed such a great couple of years. Data from Experian Hitwise showed a 786 per cent increase in traffic between September 2011 and September 2012, attracting around 25 million unique users by October.

Though social media platforms such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter had previously all dabbled with photographs as an accompanient to a mostly text-based service; and image hosting website Flickr had been popular since the mid 2000s; Pinterest - initially developed in 2009 - was the first to fully combine the two functions. In this era of technology, achieving something truly different is no mean feat.

Commercial success

Not only does Pinterest look pretty, but it also appears to drive sales for advertisers. In October, retail analytics company BizRate Insights surveyed thousands of Pinterest and Facebook users, discovering that 69 per cent of those on Pinterest had either bought or intended to buy an item they'd seen; compared with only 40 per cent on Facebook.

Despite being a gargantuan success, with a billion users, it's no secret that Facebook dropped the ball where advertising is concerned - largely due to its slow response to rising mobile use
- and though Pinterest is still nowhere near its size, the newer network may prove to be more profitable in the long term.

Facebook has clearly taken notice, continually enhancing its presentation of images and related tools. Renowned blogger Jeff Bullas noted that over 250 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day and images are shared more than any other kind of content.

This is no doubt at the forefront of the minds of developers at Google+, who seem to be taking a more personal approach to all areas, as seen in the development of Google+ Local.