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There are those who think Google’s approach to its social effort Google+ was wrong from the start. It was rushed, they say, a desperate attempt response to the meteoric rise of Facebook. So can a fresh lick of paint convince the doubters that things have turned around?
Google today unveiled a series of changes to Google+, which it says makes the social network “more functional and flexible”. The tweaks to the 170-million strong social network have been made in three key areas: navigation, conversations, and hangouts.
Google claims it is giving users “a new way to get around the stream”. Instead of static icons at the top, there’s a dynamic ribbon of applications on the left. The search titan reckons this comes with a number of perks, including:
- You can drag apps up or down to create the order you want
- You can hover over certain apps to reveal a set of quick actions
- You can show or hide apps by moving them in and out of “More”
The company claims that these powers make it easier to access your favorites, and to adjust your preferences over time. It also claims that the navigation ribbon was built with “The Next Big Feature” in mind, whatever that might be.
Google says that today’s update is an important step towards a Google+ “that inspires you to connect with others, and cherish the conversations that unfold”. The updates, it claims, now allow you to:
- Full bleed photos and videos that’ll make you really proud to post
- A stream of conversation “cards” that make it easier to scan and join discussions
- An activity drawer that highlights the community around your content
A new home for Hangouts
Hangouts are one of the things that set Google+ apart from other social networks when it launched. Hardly surprising then that the company is adding a dedicated Hangouts page. It claims that this page “creates even more opportunities to connect in person, including:
- An always-updated list of invitations from the people in your circles
- Quick access to every public and On Air hangout, for those times when you want to meet someone new, or watch a live broadcast
- A rotating billboard of popular hangouts, pro tips and other items you don’t want to miss
There are a few other changes too. For instance: there’s a new Explore page that, much like Twitter’s Discover tab, shows what’s interesting and trending across the network. There’s also a new profile with bigger photos, and a new chat list.
Can a makeover do the same thing for Google+ as it’s done countless unpopular girls in teen movies? Maybe, but if anything, the gap between it and Facebook is only widening as the latter nears one-billion registered users.