Google+ Tries to Catch Up to Facebook, Opens to Public

Google+ hopes to gain on Facebook by coming out of its invite-only status today, as well as adding mobile features to bring in a wider swath of users.

Google+ opened up to the public and extended its mobile push. The social network has been in invitation-only beta status all summer while being tweaked.

Its popular video chat service, Hangouts, will now work on phones, and its Huddle service, relabeled as Messenger, will support photo sharing.

The new releases may help Google+ attract new users and retain the ones who have already signed on. The social network enjoyed early popularity, but its use and sign-ups began to slow down after the first early weeks.

A social network’s success depends on people who people log in and find other people they know, and Google+’s invitation-only status created difficulties in attracting users on a larger scale.

Google is also adding other features to smartphones that had been for computers only, such as the ability to give +mentions or +1 votes on comments. Mobile users will now be able to use most of Google+’s features on the go as well as on their PCs.

The lack of mobile features may have caused Google+ to suffer some early growing pains. With most people accessing the Internet through a smartphone or tablet and moving away from using a PC, Google+ may have stalled further if it didn’t reach out to mobile users.

The added mobile services only work on Android phones for now, but Google says it will add support for iPhone users as well.

Google’+’s new Messenger program may also compete with Facebook’s new program, also called Messenger, which lets users to exchange instant messages, images and location information by using contact numbers stored on smartphones, regardless of whether they are friends on Facebook.

Facebook Messenger may win out because of the sheer numbers of people who use Facebook, but Google’s Messenger may begin to earn money through search results. Google’s search engine will be tied into to Google+, where it can offer people filtered search results specific to the social network.

Even with Google+’s new features, it will likely take some time for Google+ to reach the numbers like Facebook’s, which not only continues to grow but is also adding new features of its own, including an anticipated music service..

This post originally appeared at Mobiledia.

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