41 new Google+ features announced at Google I/O

google+ at google ioWith Google I/O introducing and hyping the tech company’s latest batch of products today, Google also announced a whopping 41 new features to Google+. Along side this update, it was revealed that there are currently 190 million active Google+ users – a number Google likely feels compelled to focus on in the wake of news about dwindling user activity

While Google Vice President of Engineering, Vic Gundotra, didn’t end up revealing every single one of the 41 features, one thing was clear from the handful we did a peak at: Google is building a “smart” social network that relies far more on algorithms like semantic analysis, image recognition technology, machine learning, and other types of algorithms to improve the user experience. 

Will this work? We’ll have to wait and see if Google’s strategy manages to erode some of Facebook’s market share.

New stream layout

google plus layout io

To start, Google+ wants to change how we personally filter through our friends’ posts. Facebook has us seeing the latest Facebook updates in the News Feed vertically in list-form. Google+ on the other hand is throwing that convention out the window. Google Plus’s stream will now be dynamic, meaning that all the content will be laid out in a multi-column design, keeping with the “Pinterestification” of the Web concept. 

Gundotra explains that a dynamic layout would provide a unified design across platforms. In other words, the only significant change when you switch between your computer to a smartphone are the number of columns you see on the page. Interacting with the content in your stream now has a “fun” element, as Google explains: Animations let you flip individual cards over, and status updates swing to the center of the page. These are simple but innovative ways to spice up the Google+ experience.

Automatic hashtags

google plus hashtags

2013 may be the year of the hashtag. Facebook is reportedly working on supporting hashtags, and both Instagram and Flickr now recognize the feature. Google+ also supports hashtags, but is tweaking how they are fed into its service. Hashtags will be a core part of the app for content discovery purposes, since Google will show you similar posts with the same hashtag if you click on the tag, but Google+ will go a step further and tag posts automatically by scanning your post and figuring out what you’re talking about. So if you’re talking about Michael Jordan but don’t tag him, this new feature be able to read your post and do the dirty work for you so that your post can be included in other similar conversations happening within the network. 

In fact the algorithm that’s powering the auto-tagging functionality is sophisticated enough to recognize the subject inside of a photo and tag it accordingly – for instance Gundotra showed off a picture of the Eiffel Tower, and the post is tagged with the Eiffel Tower hashtag, but there’s no textual mention of the landmark. 

New photo sharing features galore

Of course sharing photos is a core feature, so much so that Google+ unveiled several tools to help make sharing photos far easier and faster – and of course, smarter. For instance, Google+ will now pick out the best photos from the ones you’ve uploaded to its servers by picking out the blurry photos, while the platform at the same time will suggest you to upload the photos that your close friends or family are in. It does this by mapping out your relationship with other users. And to follow up on its “smart” social network play, Google will auto edit your photos to make it look better prior to sharing.

Storage space for photos will be bumped up to 15GB from 5GB. There are a slew of other features like smile detection, auto-created GIFs, panorama stitching, which we’ll have more details on later.

Google’s unified messaging app, Hangouts

google hangouts cross platform

Finally, Gundotra unveiled the messaging product that’s been creating so much buzz recently. First rumors and subsequent evidence suggested that its unified messaging platform would be named Google Babble and later Babel. This new release wraps up its currently fragmented messaging services, including Google+ Messenger, Google Chat, and other apps. They’re now collected into the Hangouts platform.

Hangouts will have all of the core features of the innumerable messaging apps you see on the market right now. Emojis and photo sharing will offer users a way to express themselves, as we’ve seen elsewhere, in addition to the boring (but fundamental) text messaging support. In fact there are 850 emoji for you to choose from, and they’re all hand-drawn.

Now Google Hangouts is called Hangouts for a reason: It offers the capability to conduct face-to-face chats via video, like the desktop version of the feature. Now, with a piece of the existing Hangouts wrapped up into Google’s mobile messaging app, you can video chat with up to 10 people in a group. And that feature in particular will look similar to the Hangouts you’re familiar with already. Each participant in the video chat will show up as thumbnail-sized tiles, while the current speaker takes up the remainder of the screen.

Many of existing Hangouts features will be available in these video calls. That includes visual and sound effects, the ability to watch YouTube videos together, and even an option to view other people’s public Hangouts On Air if you want.

The one issue you might have is the fact that Google Hangouts doesn’t support SMS messaging. If you have Hangouts but would like to send a message to someone without the app installed, that type of action wouldn’t be possible right now. But the company is open to implementing the feature considering the volume of requests for it.

The app is free and will be available on iOS and Android devices to start. It’ll also be available as a replacement for the Google Chat application that you’ve been using inside of Gmail. To upgrade to Hangouts via Gmail, just click on your photo icon in the Gmail chat list.


Google’s radical Gmail redesign is finally rolling out on Android

Google is slowly but surely giving its apps a refresh, modernizing them and ensuring that they're easy to use. The latest app to get a redesign is the Gmail app for Android, which has been redesigned with a few tweaks.
Smart Home

OK Google, what else can you do? The best tips and tricks for Google Home

The Home functions in a similar fashion to its main competitor, the Amazon Echo, but has the added benefit of select Google services. Here are few tips to help you make the most of the newfangled device.

These are the coolest games you can play on your Google Chrome browser right now

Not only is Google Chrome a fantastic web browser, it's also a versatile gaming platform that you can access from just about anywhere. Here are a few of our favorite titles for the platform.
Smart Home

Language barrier? Psh. Here's how to make your Google Home an ace translator

You can now use interpreter mode on your Google Home devices. This means, you can use your Google Home device to translate conversations in real-time. Here's how to use interpreter mode.
Social Media

Periscope tool adds guests to feeds so streamers can become talk show hosts

Periscope users can now invite viewers to chime into the conversation with more than just the comment tool. By enabling the option to add guests, livestreamers can add guests to the conversation, in audio format only.

Crouching, climbing, and creeping, the perfect Instagram shot knows no bounds

Just how far will you go for the perfect Instagram? A recent survey shows just how willing Instagram users -- and Instagram husbands -- are to climb, lie down, embarrass themselves or let their food go cold for the perfect shot.
Social Media

Facebook’s long-promised ‘unsend’ feature arrives. Here’s how to use it

Send a message to the wrong person? Messenger now gives you 10 minutes to take it back. After an update beginning to roll out today, users can now retract messages if they act within the first 10 minutes after sending the message.
Social Media

YouTube boss admits even her own kids gave the ‘Rewind’ video a thumbs down

YouTube's 2018 Rewind video went down like a lead balloon at the end of last year, becoming the most disliked video in its history. And now YouTube's CEO has admitted that even her own kids thought it was pretty darn awful.
Social Media

Snapchat finally recovers from its redesign — so here comes an Android update

Snapchat's drop in users after launching a controversial redesign has finally stagnated. During the fourth quarter and 2018 earnings report, Snapchat shared that the company is rolling out an Android update designed to increase performance.
Social Media

Skype’s new ‘blur background’ feature could help keep you from blushing

Skype's latest feature for desktop lets you blur your background during video calls. The idea is that it keeps you as the focus instead of distracting others with whatever embarrassing things you might have on show behind you.
Social Media

Twitter users are declining but more people are seeing ads every day

Twitter's end-of-the-year report for 2018 is a mix of good and bad news. The good news is that more users are seeing adds daily, the metric the company will focus on moving forward. But the bad news is that monthly active users are…

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. Here are some of the best subreddits to get you started.

YouTube beats Apple, Netflix as the most trusted brand by millennials

The popular video sharing website YouTube climbed up in an annual Mblm study, moving up from third place in 2018 and coming ahead of both Apple and Netflix in final 2019 rankings. 
Social Media

LinkedIn finally gets around to launching its own live video tool

Live video is coming to LinkedIn for businesses and individuals on the site. The livestreaming feature is launching in beta in the U.S. before rolling out to the entire community.