For the past three months, Google+, the company’s social network, was available only to users who had been invited by the company or by friends who already had access to the site.
“For the past 12 weeks we’ve been in field trial, and during that time we’ve listened and learned a great deal,” Google’s Vic Gundotra, a senior vice president for engineering, said in a blog post. “We’re nowhere near done, but with the improvements we’ve made so far we’re ready to move from field trial to beta, and introduce our 100th feature: open sign-ups.
“This way anyone can visit google.com/+, join the project and connect with the people they care about.”
Introduced in late June, Google Plus gained an estimated 25 million users by early August, although the company has released no recent figures on its membership. By contrast, Facebook has more than 750 million users, and Twitter has more than 175 million.
Google continues to add features to its social network in an apparent effort to spur growth and further differentiate itself from Facebook and Twitter. On Tuesday, the company announced a few more, including:
Better search for topics and personalities on the site: “Google+ search results include items that only you can see, so family updates are just as easy to find as international news,” the company says.
“On-air” Hangouts: Google’s group video-chat feature, called Hangouts, has helped it stand out from Facebook, which does not have a similar tool. Now users can broadcast these group chats to the public: “The setup is simple enough: just start a normal hangout, and you’ll have the option to broadcast and record your session. Once you’re ‘On Air,’ up to nine others can join your hangout (as usual), and anyone can watch your live broadcast,” Google’s blog post says.
Mobile Hangouts: These video chats now work on smartphones running Google’s Android 2.3 operating systems. Support for the iPhone is coming soon, Google says.