Google+ was launched to a grand fanfare in July this year, and promoted as the real and viable social media marketing alternative to Facebook. So successful was it in fact, that it attracted 20 million users to join in the first month alone. The only problem with the new social media network was that membership was only available by invitation. So, if you weren’t in the in-crowd, then the chances were you weren’t welcome, or at least wouldn’t be encouraged to join. The problem for Goggle was that interest in its new social media platform levelled out far quicker than had been expected. This wasn’t aided by the fact that Facebook decided to retaliate and introduce its own new features to make its platform more competitive. Well, Google has decided to take the initiative. Google+ is now open to everyone, even the likes of you and me.
So, what’s prompted this change, and why has it been introduced so suddenly? The official response from Google is that it was always planned to happen this way, and the trial stage was just there partly as a buffer so that any teething problems could be ironed out should there be any initial problems, and also to give Google chance to introduce new features to the network that would set it apart from other social media networking sites.. This improvement work has now been completed, so the platform has been opened up to all. According to Vic Gundotra, Google+’s official spokesman: “we’re ready to move from field trial to beta, and introduce our 100th feature – open signups.”
So, what sort of improvements were they talking about? Google+ has also made significant improvements to Hangouts, including the ability to use them on Android devices, for version 2.3 and higher. Google+ has also made changes to its search function: by that is meant a hybrid of content shared on the network along with results from around the web. Gundotra stated: “just type in what you’re looking for in the Google+ search box, and we’ll return relevant people and posts, as well as popular content from around the web.”
So, what’s the unofficial reason for the Google+ service being opened up to the general public so suddenly? The fact appears to be that although this new social network was launched in a blaze of glory, its star didn’t quite shine for as long as the search giant had envisaged. Yes, it did get 20 million visitors in its first month, but this enthusiasm quickly tailed off. That was expected to a certain extent, as most new applications can tend to lose their lustre. However, there was more to it than that. There was also a certain degree of controversy surrounding Google+’s brand pages, and accusations that the network was overly commercial and put profits before users. Facebook didn’t help matters either by introducing its own changes to make itself more competitive. Facebook revamped its Friend Lists, and made significant changes to its News Feed: both of these changes brought Google+-like functionality to the leading social networking site and impacted on Google+.
So will the open invitation kick start Google+’s momentum once again and re-invigorate the world of social media networking? Come back in 3 months and the answers may be a little clearer. All that can be said at the moment is that both networks are vying for supremacy and will do whatever it takes to take the lion’s share of the market. Whatever changes Google+ instigates, you can bet that Facebook will respond in kind, and vice-versa. Whoever triumphs in the end, the ultimate winner should be the user who has access to greater choice and information, though many critics would be quick to point out that the ultimate winner will inevitably only be business. So, what’s new?