Google Plus announces new features and 540m active monthly users

New Google+ tools

Google has announced 18 new features and upgrades to its Google+ social network.

Unveiled at an event in San Francisco and in an official blog post yesterday, the changes "aim to take a lot of the work out of messaging, video calling and photo editing". The new hangout features include:

  • Location sharing, animated GIFs and SMS sending within Hangouts for Android
  • Dedicated watch page and control room for Hangout broadcasters
  • Full screen video calling for mobile and desktop, with automatic lighting adjustment

Meanwhile, photo editing tools include:

  • Image search within the user's photo library
  • HDR Scape function added to Google's Snapspeed app, and Analog Efex Pro added to Google's Nik Collection editing suite
  • Auto Awesome editing tools - Action to create a strobe effect photograph, Eraser to remove any moving elements such as passersby and traffic, and Movie which automatically creates a showreel from pictures and videos.

It was also announced yesterday that custom URLs for Google+ profiles will finally be rolling out for all established users. The criteria for a bespoke or vanity URL includes an account over 30 days old, more than 10 followers, and a profile picture.

Usage on the up

Google took the opportunity to reveal Google+ usage stats are "growing faster than we ever could have imagined". Two years after launch, the social network now claims 540 million monthly active users, and 300 million 'in the stream', i.e. visiting the Google+ content stream as opposed to simply being logged in and using its features.

Interestingly, Google said 1.5 billion photos are uploaded each week. This stat, combined with the focus on new photo editing tools, prompted the New York Times to speculate that Google+ is "trying to carve out its own niche, as the place to go for photo storage, editing and sharing". It has a long way to go of course before competing with Facebook's current total of 250 billion user photos.

Natalie Booth, head of search at theEword, commented: "Following the success of media tools like Instagram and Vine for other social networks, it's interesting to see Google+ going down this route. Furthermore, custom URLs will make it much easier for small businesses to promote their page, which could drive more usage."

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