New Google+ Features Make the Social Network a Facebook, Twitter Look-Alike?

Google may be a search giant, but in the social networking business, Facebook and Twitter are the kings of the hill. Still, Google+ is constantly evolving, in order to attract a bigger audience share and to improve its value to users. The latest Google+ revamp highlights new features that are reminiscent of Twitter and Facebook offerings.

The new Google+ Explore page rivals Twitter's trending topics, by presenting popular content in a multimedia-rich interface.

Observers say that the new additions and changes to Google+ are borrowed from Facebook and Twitter, particularly the way users can explore popular topics and trends, and some interface elements. “It’s still early days, and there’s plenty left to do, but we’re more excited than ever to build a seamless social experience, all across Google,” says Vic Gundotra, senior vice president for social business at Google. The changes are said to be focused on making Google+ simpler and more beautiful.

The Google+ revamp highlights the following new features:

  • Dynamic navigation elements. Users can now drag and drop links, icons and buttons according to one’s preference.
  • Improved conversation views. These now include conversation “cards,” and “full-bleed” photos. These are akin to Gmail’s threaded view, which make it easier to follow and understand conversations.
  • New hangout features. Google+ now offers quick access to public hangouts, which users can join for real-time video chatting;
  • A new “Explore” page. Google offers trending topics, which include popular posts and searches.

Google’s new cover photo is highly reminiscent of Facebook Timeline, though, which is a feature that turns a user’s profile into a reverse chronologically arranged page that scrolls continuously to show the updates through the years. The explore page is similar to Twitter’s own trending topics feature, which offer users an easy way to access popular keywords, topics and hashtags on the service.

However, even with the alleged copies, the new Google+ features make it easier and more intuitive to access and explore information, says social media and PR lecturer David Phillips. The revamped Google+ “opens up the architecture of Google Plus so you can use many more features more intuitively.”

Google says over 100 million of its 170 million Google+ users have “engaged” in the past 30 days. However, there are still doubts whether Google+ can make it big in the social networking scene. Fast Company’s Mark Wilson says the new features make the service more beautiful. But the question is whether it still matters.

Facebook is the de facto social network of our time. If there’s a second in command, it’s the more quick and casual Twitter. There are only so many social networks that we can all be social on every day.

Google+ has been repeatedly ridiculed for failing to take off, although the search giant is constantly trying to make the service more relevant to users, such as by integrating Google+ profiles and posts on Google searches, and offering Google+ pages for businesses and brands. Even as a #3 player, the close integration with basic services like Gmail and Google Apps for Business is a big come-on to individuals and organizations wanting a seamless way of communicating, collaborating and getting social with online friends.