While Google has been successful with services like Gmail and Google Maps and has a huge share of the phone and tablet business with its Android OS, the tech giant has struggled a bit in the social media market, lagging behind Facebook. Google +’s 190 million monthly active users sounds impressive until you compare it with Facebook’s 1 billion monthly active users.
Google is hoping that a new enhancements to the service will draw more users. The changes focus on Stream, Hangouts and Photos.
The changes to Stream (the equivalent of the News Feed for Facebook) include many of the same changes Facebook recently made across their devices such as making the stream look similar across multiple devices and displaying larger photos.
The company also says they work hard to make the user experience “intimate and immersive” and that changes include “awesome-sized” media and “Delightful animations.” The delightful part being that the sharebox bounces and the menus slide.
Google is also adding Twitter-style hashtags to the stream by tagging you posts with what they feel is the appropriate topic, so that you can “go deeper” into the content and browse what they feel is related content online.
Google is offering a stand-alone version of Google Hangouts, the chat app that lets you combine photos, text and video. Again, this is much like Facebook offering Facebook Messenger as a stand-alone app.
Google pulls out the buzzwords again, promising that the messaging is “richer and more responsive.” The app will synch across multiple devices, so if you clear a notification on your computer, it won’t pop up on your phone.
Among the photo features are the ability to organize and edit your shots and instant upload that automatically backs up your phones taken on your mobile phone. There’s also unlimited free storage.
The Auto Highlight feature promises to make sorting pictures easier by de-emphasizing duplicates and what it determines to be bad pictures. Auto Enhance will adjust brightness, contrast, saturation and other factors to “improve” your photos.
The Auto Awesome feature (which may be the best name for any option ever) will create an animated GIF based on a set of photos in you library. You can also use it to make a panorama or a film strip.
Whether or not these features are enough to overcome Facebook’s seven-year head start in the social media arena, only time will tell.