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Google+ opened to the public, gets mobile video chat

Google+ is now open to the public to use, pitting the search giant’s social network against reigning champion Facebook.

Google+ launched in June but was only open to invited users.  Now, anyone can sign up (provided they use a real name) and Google has added new features, including search functions for topics of interest, such as cooking or photography, according to the company's blog.

New features: Hangouts
The video chat feature Hangouts, where users can chat with individual or groups of friends by joining an active chat in the Stream (Google+’s equivalent of Facebook’s Newsfeed), will now be available on users’ mobile phones, supported on Android 2.3 and above, senior vice president of engineering Vic Gundotra said on the blog.

Other new Hangouts features include On Air, a public broadcast option where up to nine other users can join the Hangout, and anyone can watch.

Additional features are being previewed on Hangouts including screen sharing, sketch pad, Google documents, and named Hangouts, for public discussion of particular topics such as fashion or music, Mr Gundotra said.

Google has said while its work is far from over, the beta trial has now begun and the new features will be rolled out globally today.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the announcements come two days before Facebook’s annual conference for software developers who build applications for Facebook.  The Journal said last week Google started allowing developers to build applications for Google+.

Opening Google+ to the public makes the 100th improvement to the new social network, Mr Gundotra said.

“We’re nowhere near done,” he said.

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