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Google+ ups the ante

Google+ has rolled out the first of many promised updates to the fledgling social network.

Google has rolled out a number of new updates for Google+, including “What's Hot”, “Ripples” and “Creative Kit”.

The What's Hot feature is the Google+ equivalent of trending topics on Twitter – but with more words. The feature now appears on the left-hand side of users' Google+ streams.

The Ripples feature now allows users to see how their posts spread across the social network – visualised in an infographic for each public post.

Google's senior VP of social Vic Gundotra says: There's something deeply satisfying about sharing on Google+, then watching the activity unfold. Comments pour in, notifications light up, friends share with friends (who share with their friends), and in no time at all there's an entire community around your post.”

Gundotra says Ripples is still experimental, so users are encouraged to make it more informative and useful.

The third update is the addition of a native photo-editing feature, Creative Kit. Users can use the service to edit the photos they upload to Google+.

Speaking of the Creative Kit feature, Gundotra says: “Photo editing is too often a chore, requiring specialised software and lots of patience.”

The Creative Kit can add effects, sharpen images and add text. Google+ has also added limited edition Halloween effects and is running a photo competition until the end of the month. To enter, photos should be tagged with the #gplushalloween hashtag. Winners will be announced on 3 November.

The final update from Google+ is the extension of the service to Google Apps customers, which is expected to boost the use of the Google Hangouts video chats among developers within enterprises.

Coming together

Google recently revealed its fledgling social network has reached 40 million users. The service was launched in June in a limited field trial, but opened to the public at the end of September.

While Google+ saw an explosion of growth and activity in the days following its public roll-out, analytics firms have reported that the interest in the social network appears to have dropped.

Web analytics firm Chitika Insights published a report saying Google+'s growth spurt was short-lived and traffic on the site dropped by 60% to roughly the same level of activity it recorded before going public.

However, speaking at a roundtable at the Web 2.0 Summit, in San Francisco, recently, Gundotra and Google co-founder Sergey Brin said the response to Google+ has exceeded their expectations.

Gundotra said users will begin to see the Google+ strategy coming together by Christmas this year.

Further updates that Google has promised to roll-out on the social platform include brand pages and the adjustment of the service's controversial real-name policy.

Gundotra says: “We think Google+ should get better every time you use it, and we hope it feels that way today. If ever it doesn't, we hope you'll let us know.”


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