After three months, anyone who wants in to the Google+ social network can now get in. The company announced the news today on its blog, along with a new Google+ search feature and expanded functionality for hangouts.
Beta Opens To Everyone
Buried at the end of Google’s blog post is the news that the service, which until this point has been a invite-only “field trial” is now an open beta available to anyone:
For the past 12 weeks we’ve been in field trial, and during that time we’ve listened and learned a great deal. 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 signups. This way anyone can visit google.com/+, join the project and connect with the people they care about.
Also out today (though I don’t yet see it) is a much requested ability to search through Google+ content:
Just type what you’re looking for into the Google+ search box, and we’ll return relevant people and posts, as well as popular content from around the web.
If you have it, you’ll see “Search Google+” in the search box like this:
If you don’t, the text will say “Find People.” If that’s the case, hang in there — search is still being rolled out. Also see our longer article: Up Close With Google+ Search.
Hangouts On Phone, Broadcasted & More
Hangouts, the ability to video chat with up to nine other people, have gained new features, including some on my personal wish list. These include:
Hangouts on phones: Android 2.3 to start, iPhone support “coming soon.” Nothing mentioned about older Android phones, however (my Droid Charge is stuck at Android 2.2)
Hangouts “on air” or “broadcast hangouts:” This is the ability for anyone to “tune in” and watch a hangout that’s already hit capacity. I thought this would be a great feature to offer when I first saw hangouts, as did others. Now, it’s real — at least for ”a limited number of broadcasters, but any member of the Google+ community can tune in.”
Hangouts also now allow screensharing, shared sketchpads or sharing Google Docs. You can also have “named” Hangouts around particular topics, plus there’s a new Hangouts API:
In the wake of last week’s Google+ API launch, we’re also releasing a basic set of Hangouts APIs. If you’re a developer who wants to build new kinds of apps and games (and who-knows-what-else), then you can find more details on the Google+ platform blog.
Google also says there’s been 91 other improvements to Google+ since it launched nearly 90 days ago, which you can review on the What’s New With Google+ page.
Postscript: See our follow-up article, Up Close With Google+ Search.